Healthcare interests donated $42 million to congressional and presidential campaigns in the 1996 election, making them the fourth-leading source of campaign money, according to a report by a political watchdog group.
Healthcare interests were leading contributors in 16 of the 20 closest congressional races, the watchdog group Citizen Action found. Healthcare interests also were among the top contributors to GOP candidates in nine of the 10 closest congressional races won by Republicans, and they gave 59% of their overall donations to the GOP (See related story, p. 40).
Of the money donated by healthcare interests, more than half-$21.3 million-came from individual contributors, rather than from political action committees, or PACs. Healthcare PACs gave $17.1 million.
The Citizen Action report underscores the continuing shift of healthcare contributions from the Democrats, who formerly controlled Congress, to the Republicans, who took control in 1995.
Last year, officials of the American Hospital Association, under pressure from Republican leaders-who saw the organization as too closely aligned with Democrats-said they had begun shifting some of their campaign donations to the GOP (Aug. 19, 1996, p. 4).
The report, based on post-election data from the Federal Election Commission, also highlights how important money is to winning election to Congress. In only 37 of 435 House races did victors have smaller campaign war chests than their opponents, Citizen Action said.
The group did not detail all the healthcare interests that made contributions to presidential or congressional candidates. It did, however, list the top PAC contributors to candidates in the closest congressional races.
The AHA's PAC figured prominently in one. Six PACs gave the legal limit, $10,000 each, to Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.), sponsor of the AHA's proposed legislation to create a bipartisan Medicare reform commission. English won by fewer than 2,800 votes in a race in which a total of 210,000 votes were cast.
English's race against Ronald Dinicola was the 11th-closest race in Congress and the eighth-closest won by a Republican. English received a total of $94,576 from healthcare interests.
English sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees the Medicare program.
Of those who were locked in close races, Rep. Jon Fox (R-Pa.) was the biggest recipient of healthcare dollars, with $96,220. His 84-vote victory over Joseph Hoeffel was the closest congressional race.
Fox's main healthcare assignment is his seat on the House Veterans Affairs hospitals and healthcare subcommittee.
Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.), who ranks second on the Ways and Means health subcommittee, received $91,875 from healthcare interests. Johnson, in her eighth term, won by about 2,000 votes.