Hospitals Group Pays for Capitol Clout
Wisconsin Hospital Association spends millions on lobbying, campaign donations.
The Wisconsin Hospital Association is the lead membership and lobbying group on state and federal policies and spending for the state’s hospitals. To that end, the association has spent $9.8 million since 2000 on state lobbying, campaign contributions and outside election activities in Wisconsin.
The group’s political action committee (PAC) and conduit, which is a legal check-bundling outfit, contributed nearly $2.1 million directly to candidates between January 2000 and December 2016. About 65 percent of those contributions, or more than $1.3 million, went to Republican legislative and statewide candidates, compared to about $741,750 to Democratic candidates. Topping the list of contributions through the hospital association’s conduit and PAC between January 2000 and December 2016 were:
- Republican Gov. Scott Walker, $241,396
- Former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, $143,200
- Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, $107,375
- Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee, $100,720
- Committee to Elect a Republican Senate, $92,630
The list of top recipients shows that the association targets its contributions to those in power – governors and legislative campaign committees, which are used by legislative leaders to raise money from special interests to spend on elections to maintain or increase the size of their caucuses.
But unlike numerous special interest groups that spend millions of dollars on outside electioneering activities, the association has devoted much more resources to direct contributions. The group’s reported spending on outside election activities totaled only $44,400 from 2002 through 2008.
The vast majority of the association’s spending, nearly $7.7 million since 2004, has been on lobbying. The hospital association weighs in on a myriad of issues, including health care reform, insurance, taxes, medical education, adult and minor mental health and psychiatric care, and technology, among others.
Borgerding contributed about $15,200 between January 2000 and December 2016 to legislative and statewide candidates, including about $12,350 to Republicans and $2,850 to Democrats. Top recipients of his campaign contributions were the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, $2,450; Walker, $2,275; and $500 each to GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, of Rochester; Republican Sen. Leah Vukmir, of Brookfield, GOP Sen. Howard Marklein, of Spring Green, and Republican Rep. Kathy Bernier, of Lake Hallie.
During the first six months of the current 2017-18 legislative session, the association is on record opposing bills to allow chiropractors to perform physical exams on student athletes. The group also support numerous bills that would expand the duties that dental hygienists can perform without a dentist’s supervision, provide grants to train various types of medical professionals and increase funding for programs and facilities, like rural health, preventive care, and emergency medical services.
Among the bills backed by the hospital group that were approved by the GOP-controlled legislature and signed into law by Walker in recent years were ones that:
- Allow local ambulance services to collect debt payments from people’s tax refunds;
- Allow people to take unpaid absences from work in order to be organ and bone marrow donors;
- Approved Wisconsin’s entry into a program where doctors are licensed to work in multiple states;
- Gave a tax break to employers with workplace wellness and fitness programs;
- Limited damages that patients or their families may collect for medical malpractice or wrongful death and prohibited the use of certain state reports about a facility as evidence in a civil or criminal court case against the health care provider.
- Created a tax break for health savings accounts.