Republican legislators who are facing a backlash from the conservative right for approving the expansion of Medicaid tapped into a vast network of supporters to easily outraise colleagues and opponents last year.
The lawmakers, who are the targets of the Tea Party’s ire, received thousands of dollars in campaign support from the health care industry, whose executives didn’t hesitate to give big-dollar checks to their re-election efforts.
Combined, the incumbent legislators collected nearly $1 million, and have stockpiled more than $850,000 going into 2014, their campaign finance reports show.
On the average, the pro-expansion senators and representatives raised $67,000.
The funding disparity between the pro-expansion incumbents and their primary challengers grows starker when looking at individual races.
Republican Shawnna Bolick, who is running for the House in Legislative District 28, raised $40,000. Bolick is squaring off against Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, who backed the expansion plan and raised $113,000 last year.
Lobbyist Chris Herstam said he’s not surprised by the “pragmatic” Republicans’ strong fundraising numbers.
“The business community, particularly the health care community, is extremely grateful for their wise policy decisions and political courage in 2013,” Herstam said, referring to the support for Medicaid expansion. “Their supporters are clearly sending a message to the Tea Party that these pragmatic Republicans deserve to be re-elected and will fight hard in their campaigns.”
But Tea party activist Christine Bauserman, who led the unsuccessful effort in 2013 to put the Medicaid expansion law on this year’s ballot, said conservatives are undaunted.
She rejected the suggestion that pro-expansion lawmakers’ healthy fundraising numbers would scare off conservatives and their candidates.
“The army to walk and knock on doors exists on our side,” she said. “The people want a voice. They are demanding representation.”
Some of the pro-expansion lawmakers have been reprimanded by their district parties for backing Gov. Jan Brewer’s decision to expand the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. The policy, which allows the state to draw down hundreds of millions of federal dollars in exchange for expanding eligibility to the state’s Medicaid program, split the GOP caucus and now pits Republicans against each other in some primaries.
Suzanne Pfister, an executive of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, recounted how difficult the political atmosphere was surrounding the expansion debate.
Pfister said throughout the session, she and others in the hospital industry heard about how pro-expansion lawmakers got “yelled at and scorned” at district party meetings and threatened with a primary challenge.
“Last year, I don’t think I could have put my money in a better place than to reinforce how much I personally appreciated what those legislators did and how courageous they were,” said Pfister, who contributed nearly $10,000 of her own money, most of which went to the health industry’s legislative allies. “Money is a testament to support. It’s one measure, not the only measure.”
Other hospital executives also didn’t hesitate to give a lot — and to give often: Betsey Bayless, president emeritus of the Maricopa Integrated Health System, gave more than $4,000; Keith Howell, president of Abrazo Health Care, provided $4,500; Linda Hunt of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center contributed almost $6,600; Charles Martin, chairman of Vanguard Health Systems, gave $6,900; and Keith Pitts, vice chairman at Vanguard Health Systems, contributed $6,000.
The most prolific group was Vanguard Health Management Inc. PAC. Created last year, the committee gave roughly $25,000 to the Republican members of the pro-expansion bipartisan coalition.
Vanguard Health Systems, the company that operates the Abrazo hospitals, also pitched in an additional $2,000, bringing their total to roughly $27,000.
Atop the list is Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, who raised $153,000 last year, including $110,000 that he loaned to his campaign.
Actually, Worsley’s loan masks his fundraising strength.
Even without dipping into his own pocket, he would still have landed in the Top 10 — thanks to an avalanche of support from political committees, many of which come from the health care industry.
The trend also shows up in the reports from Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, Rep. Heather Carter, R-Phoenix, Sen. Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, Sen. John McComish, R-Phoenix, and Rep. Rob Robson, R-Chandler. McComish, however, recently announced that he is retiring from the Legislature this year and will instead run for justice of the peace. He is supporting Rep. Jeff Dial, R-Chandler, to replace him in the Senate.
Contributions from prominent health care entities, such as the Arizona Medical Association, Blue Cross-Blue Shield and the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, dotted their reports.
Among their biggest contributors is Vanguard Health Management, which operates Abrazo Health Care and which gave $2,000 to each of the pro-expansion legislators.
By the Numbers
|NAME||RAISED||SPENT||CASH ON HAND|
|Sen. Bob Worsley||$153,802||$28,570||$131,821|
|Rep. Kate Brophy McGee||$113,220||$10,809||$107,119|
|Rep. Heather Carter||$103,268||$14,197||$92,042|
|Sen. Steve Pierce||$87,833||$60,604||$64,627|
|Sen. John McComish||$78,093||$19,767||$60,865|
|Rep. Bob Robson||$74,528||$1,680||$73,297|
|Rep. Ethan Orr||$66,219||$3,028||$65,151|
|Sen. Adam Driggs||$63,296||$12,818||$53,001|
|Rep. Jeff Dial||$56,367||$10,196||$46,171|
|Rep. TJ Shope||$45,831||$789||$46,326|
|Rep. Doug Coleman||$39,266||$275||$38,990|
|Rep. Doris Goodale||$25,968||$1,450||$33,723|
|Rep. Frank Pratt||$30,243||$232||$30,011|