While physicians have been among the leading contributors to the 2000 presidential candidates, hospitals and other healthcare executives remain uncommitted for now.
Health professionals-a group that consists largely of physicians but also includes nurses, pharmacists and other limited-license practitioners-have given a total of $590,451 to presidential campaigns as of April 15, and were among the top 20 contributors for 10 of the 11 likely candidates for president, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission data by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Health professionals were among the top five contributors for five of the 11 candidates. As a group, they were the fifth-biggest contributor to the presidential candidates.
Another major contributor is the Houston law firm Vinson & Elkins, which has a major healthcare law practice. At $173,600 in donations, it was the largest single contributor to the campaign of Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican front-runner, according to the center's analysis.
But hospital and nursing home executives, who frequently are major contributors to congressional campaigns, were not mentioned by the Center for Responsive Politics so far in the 2000 presidential campaign.
"Given that hospitals are the single biggest contractor the government has, including defense contractors, senior executives at hospitals don't get politically active, aren't financially active, and it hurts," said Thomas Scully, president and chief executive officer of the Federation of American Health Systems.
"I don't think people make the direct connection between hospital finances and what's going on in Washington," he said.
The absence of donations from nursing home executives is unlike the 1996 presidential campaign. Then, the long-term-care industry contributed to the Democratic Party $1 million in "soft money," or donations directly to party coffers to be used for get-out-the-vote efforts.