Here's one for the “Thanks a lot, pal” file: Kentucky GOP Sen. Jim Bunning, who is—depending on your point of view—credited or blamed for personally blocking the proposed “doc fix” for a few days last week, won re-election in 2004 thanks in no small part to the financial support he received from the healthcare industry and the American Medical Association.
Thanks to Bunning's lonely filibustering, Congress wasn't able to stave off a 21.2% Medicare payment cut that kicked in March 1. Following a wave of negative publicity, Bunning negotiated some concessions and relented, allowing the short-term fix to be passed on March 2.
Still, the same AMA that railed against the Senate on Feb 26, saying, “It is shocking that the Senate would abandon our most vulnerable patients, making them the collateral damage of their procedural games,” through its political action committee, gave Bunning three $5,000 donations in 2004, according to the Federal Election Commission Web site. It also says the American Hospital Association gave $7,500; and the Paducah, Ky.-based American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians PAC gave $10,000. Thousands more were given to Bunning by ophthalmologists, osteopaths, otolaryngologists, plastic surgeons and podiatrists (and that's just the Os and the Ps!). The Web site campaignmoney.com notes that the AMA gave $74,625 to the Kentucky Medical Association's political arm—then called the Kentucky Educational Medical PAC—though it doesn't say which candidate the money went to.
The Web site opensecrets.org reports that the top contributors to Bunning's campaign were “health professionals” with $194,883 from individuals and $141,948 from PACs, and “insurance” with $88,899 from individuals and $232,072 from PACs. Were they rallying around Bunning so he could defeat some ambulance-chasing trial lawyer? Nope. Bunning's opponent was state Sen. Dan Mongiardo, who's now lieutenant governor.
Mongiardo, a throat surgeon, incensed the medical community when he voted against a cap on punitive damages in malpractice cases.
In the end, Bunning, a member of baseball's Hall of Fame, defeated Mongiardo by a 22,819-vote margin, 51% to 49%.