AHA ads back GOP in­cum­bents against tea party

Modern Healthcare - - NEWS - By Paul Demko

The Amer­i­can Hospi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion’s po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee is run­ning TV ads back­ing con­gres­sional Repub­li­can in­cum­bents who have been friendly to the hospi­tal in­dus­try in hopes of fend­ing off more rightwing chal­lengers who take a harder line on govern­ment health­care spend­ing.

The AHA’s PAC has spent nearly $1 mil­lion on spots sup­port­ing can­di­dates so far this elec­tion sea­son. That’s roughly as much as the or­ga­ni­za­tion spent on ra­dio and TV ads dur­ing the en­tire 2012 elec­tion cy­cle, ac­cord­ing to Federal Elec­tion Com­mis­sion fil­ings.

The ads typ­i­cally steer clear of pol­icy de­tails but praise can­di­dates for op­pos­ing oner­ous reg­u­la­tions or Medi­care cuts.

Tom Nick­els, AHA’s se­nior vice pres­i­dent for federal re­la­tions, said the in­crease in in­de­pen­dent ex­pen­di­tures re­flects the chang­ing dy­nam­ics of cam­paign fi­nance fol­low­ing the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Cit­i­zens United rul­ing strik­ing down spend­ing re­stric­tions. Since then, su­per PACs sup­ported by wealthy donors have gained big in­flu­ence, mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult for tra­di­tional PACs to make a dif­fer­ence. “PACs like us need to par­tic­i­pate far more ag­gres­sively in races that are re­ally in play,” Nick­els said.

The AHA PAC’s early pres­ence on the air­waves pri­mar­ily has been aimed at sup­port­ing GOP in­cum­bents fac­ing more con­ser­va­tive, tea party-aligned pri­mary chal­lengers.

The AHA spent just over $100,000 each on ads sup­port­ing con­gress­men David Joyce of Ohio and Mike Simp­son of Idaho. Both tri­umphed in May pri­maries.

The AHA also poured $200,000 into me­dia ads back­ing Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), who barely sur­vived a runoff elec­tion last month against a tea party- backed chal­lenger.

Cochran “is a can­di­date who has been very, very sup­port­ive of hos­pi­tals in the state,” Nick­els said.

In Kansas, the AHA is spend­ing $200,000 to bol­ster Sen. Pat Roberts, who faces a chal­lenge on his right flank from Dr. Mil­ton Wolf. The ads praise Roberts as a leader on ru­ral health­care is­sues.

Nick­els said the AHA learned from the 2010 and 2012 elec­tion cy­cles, which saw mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans such as Sen. Richard Lu­gar of In­di­ana lose to more con­ser­va­tive chal­lengers. “We want to be help­ful to main­stream can­di­dates who lis­ten to their hospi­tal con­stituents,” he said.

The AHA also has spent roughly $180,000 each on ads sup­port­ing Demo­cratic sen­a­tors Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska. Both of their races are rated toss-ups.

“We want to be help­ful to main­stream can­di­dates who lis­ten to their hospi­tal con­stituents.” TOM NICK­ELS SE­NIOR VICE PRES­I­DENT AMER­I­CAN HOSPI­TAL AS­SO­CI­A­TION

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