December 2004 Bulletin

Orthopaedic PAC has productive election cycle

By Paul Collins, MD

As chair of the Political Action Committee (PAC) of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), I am glad to have this opportunity to report on a most extraordinary year for the orthopaedic community. As this 2003-2004 election cycle comes to a close (November and December receipts remain to be counted), the PAC received almost $1.8 million in contributions from orthopaedic surgeons. The participation rate of AAOS fellows was about 13 percent.
Paul Collins, MD

This money helped to position orthopaedic surgeons and our issues at the forefront of the issues being discussed in the political arena. Particularly with regard to medical liability reform, the Orthopaedic PAC was able to support candidates that were strongly in favor of our position.

PAC contribution to candidates:

The PAC made $1,183,232 in contributions (1) to candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, (2) to political party organizations, (3) for independent expenditures, and (4) to key leadership Senators not up for reelection. The PAC gave $123,280 to candidates running for the Senate, and $460,500 to candidates running for the U.S. House. The breakdown by party was $172,000 for Democratic candidates, and $411,780 for Republicans. We had a 95 percent success rate in the election of candidates that the Orthopaedic PAC supported.

The PAC contributed $180,000 to Democratic and Republican political party organizations. In addition to $350,000 in independent expenditures discussed further below, the PAC gave $53,500 to key Senators not up for reelection who serve in leadership positions or on important committees.

The money collected by the PAC also helped facilitate AAOS presence and prominence at the both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.

PAC independent expenditures

The physician community emerged, for the first time ever, as a major “player” in several Senatorial and House elections, where support for liability reform was a significant factor in the outcome of the race. Numerous specialty medical societies, including the AAOS, made large independent PAC expenditures in this 2004 election, and most of these were associated with pro-tort reform candidates and the efforts of Doctors for Medical Liability Reform. (See related article by Stuart L. Weinstein, MD in this issue of the Bulletin, page 42. )

Under Federal law, an independent expenditure has no limit, and can be made so long as the candidate has no knowledge of the expenditure, and did not collaborate with the political action committee’s activities on the candidate’s behalf. These expenditures allow PACs to spend well beyond the $5,000 limit for direct contributions to a candidate’s political committee for each election (primary, runoff, and general).

The Orthopaedic PAC made a $200,000 independent expenditure in the race of Tom Price, MD, the first orthopaedic surgeon ever to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He was elected to represent the 6th Congressional District of Georgia.

In addition, the PAC made a $150,000 independent expenditure in the election of Tom Coburn, MD, the Senator-elect from Oklahoma. These expenditures were to purchase newspaper and radio advertisements in the days and weeks before the election.

Independent expenditures were also made by medical societies in the following races: Alaska by the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC); Washington by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) and the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP); South Dakota by the AMA; Oklahoma by the AANS, the ACEP and the AAOS; Louisiana by the AMA; Georgia by the AMA, AAOS and the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA); South Carolina by the AMA, ASA and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), North Carolina by AMA, AANS and ACEP; and finally Pennsylvania by the AMA.

Out of the nine states in which these expenditures were made, in only one state—Washington—were the physician community’s efforts unsuccessful. From the records made available by the Federal Election Commission, it appears that physicians’ PACs made over $1 million in independent expenditures to help elect candidates, especially those that supported medical liability reform.

Looking forward

The 2005-2006 election cycle will provide new opportunities for the orthopaedic community to continue to elevate the importance of issues such as correcting the flawed Medicare payment formula, and especially enacting meaningful Federal medical liability reform. We will also have to make sure that we reelect Dr. Price to Congress. The Orthopaedic PAC will play a major role in facilitating the presence of the AAOS in the political debate, so long as we continue to have sufficient funding to carry out our efforts.

For those who participated in 2003 and 2004, and for those who may consider contributing to our efforts in the future, we appreciate your participation and your support.

Paul Collins, MD, is an orthopaedic surgeon in private practice in Boise, Idaho, and chair of the Executive Committee of the Political Action Committee of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

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