The stench of hypocrisy hangs over the decision by some healthcare organizations to suspend political campaign contributions in the wake of the armed insurrection that sacked the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6.
Now is not the time to suspend some campaign contributions by healthcare organizations. Now is the time to permanently end them all. And, in the spirit of unity, to candidates from both parties.
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association jumped to the forefront with a statement by CEO Kim Keck. “In light of this week’s violent, shocking assault on the U.S. Capitol, and the votes of some members of Congress to subvert the results of November’s election by challenging Electoral College results, BCSBA will suspend contributions to those lawmakers who voted to undermine our democracy.”
That includes House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), whose leadership political action committee received $10,000 from the BCBS PAC. Other major healthcare PACs contributing to either the campaign or PAC of the most powerful Republican in the House, a man who repeatedly stoked the lie that President-elect Biden did not win the election, included AbbVie ($25K), Abbott Labs ($20K), Merck ($20K), UnitedHealth Group ($20K), DaVita ($17.5K) and the American Hospital Association ($15K).
According to press reports, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), who heads up the House’s ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus, and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), a former dentist, helped organize the rally where President Trump gave the speech that led to his impeachment for inciting insurrection. Healthcare PACs are major funders of both men’s campaigns.
They include the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists ($10K), the American Optometric Association ($5.5K), and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons ($2.5K). Gosar’s campaign coffers included donations from the American Dental Association ($10K), the American College of Radiology ($10K), and the American Society of Anesthesiologists ($7.5K).
I could make similar lists for each of the 147 Republicans who voted against certifying the Electoral College results. One can’t help but notice that many of the groups that top the ringleaders’ donor lists are among those that have fought hardest in recent years against lowering drug prices or ending surprise billing and have shown little interest in reining in healthcare spending.
Therein lies the hypocrisy of the stampede toward corporations and trade groups “suspending” their donations.
They fear exposure. Moreover, merely suspending donations implies it is only temporary, with a return to business as usual when things quiet down. The times require more drastic action.
Our democracy was in peril long before the armed insurrectionists invaded the Capitol. The campaign finance limits erected after Richard Nixon resigned from office look like the ripped jeans popular with the young.
The 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United unleashed a tidal wave of campaign contributions and donations to “dark money” PACs from corporate and super-wealthy Americans. Much it remains hidden from public view.
Total spending on congressional races has nearly tripled since Barack Obama was first elected president in 2008.
That flood of donations poisons the airwaves during our ever-lengthening election seasons and hinders Congress’ ability to engage in meaningful political debate.
Healthcare trade groups already spend enormous sums on lobbying Congress to advance their special interests.
Most of the lobbyists they hire previously worked on Capitol Hill and come from both sides of the aisle. Lobbying would not be limited with a total ban on corporate campaign contributions.
Given the high court’s unwillingness to overturn its previous decision, and a Republican minority in the Senate likely to filibuster any form of campaign finance reform, the only path to reform is a voluntary pact by all healthcare stakeholders to end corporate donations in any form to all politicians from both parties.