Anesthesiologists PAC Awakens in Philadelphia Congressional Race

The group has spent hundreds of thousands to elect anesthesiologists, both pro- and anti-Obamacare, to Congress.

Jack Fitzpatrick
April 14, 2014, 2:30 a.m.

In sub­urb­an Phil­adelphia, one med­ic­al PAC is again mak­ing sure its mem­bers don’t go un­der the polit­ic­al knife un­pre­pared.

The Amer­ic­an So­ci­ety of An­es­thesi­olo­gists’ polit­ic­al ac­tion com­mit­tee just made a ma­jor in­vest­ment in an open con­gres­sion­al primary in Pennsylvania, spend­ing $210,000 on ra­dio ads sup­port­ing Demo­crat Val Arkoosh. Arkoosh is run­ning in the lib­er­al 13th Dis­trict, which was left open when Rep. Allyson Schwartz de­cided to run for gov­ernor this year.

And though com­ing in­to an elec­tion as a polit­ic­al novice, like Arkoosh, can be a dis­ad­vant­age, her pro­fes­sion­al ex­per­i­ence is com­ing in handy on the trail.

Arkoosh is an ob­stet­ric an­es­thesi­olo­gist, and her col­leagues have shown a pen­chant for help­ing out their own in elec­tions over the past few years.

The ASA dropped over a quarter-mil­lion dol­lars in 2010 to help Mary­land Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Andy Har­ris be­come the first an­es­thesi­olo­gist elec­ted to Con­gress. And in 2012, the group’s PAC spent an­oth­er $125,000 sup­port­ing GOP Rep. Larry Buc­shon in In­di­ana.

Buc­shon isn’t an an­es­thesi­olo­gist. But the sur­geon-turned-con­gress­man can not only ap­pre­ci­ate their craft, hav­ing worked with them, but it turns out he has a dir­ect con­nec­tion to the ASA: his wife, Kath­ryn Buc­shon, is an an­es­thesi­olo­gist.

Like the dent­al lobby, which has spent hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in the past two years to keep the House’s two dent­ists in of­fice, the an­es­thesi­olo­gists have a spe­cial in­terest in get­ting their own in­to Con­gress — even if they come from op­pos­ite sides of the ideo­lo­gic­al spec­trum. Arkoosh has been a vo­cal sup­port­er of the new health care law and has made health care re­form the cent­ral is­sue of her cam­paign. Buc­shon and Har­ris, and oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans the an­es­thesi­olo­gists sup­port, have voted dozens of times to re­peal Obama­care.

After the 2012 Su­preme Court rul­ing up­hold­ing of the Af­ford­able Care Act, ASA pres­id­ent Jerry Co­hen said in a state­ment that the group would “vig­or­ously par­ti­cip­ate in the on­go­ing de­bate to ad­dress the law’s short­com­ings.” While the ASA has taken a dim view of Obama­care and it donates more to Re­pub­lic­ans than Demo­crats, the group has pri­or­it­ized sup­port­ing an­es­thesi­olo­gists over push­ing for any par­tic­u­lar po­s­i­tion on the law. (It also sup­ports plenty of oth­er med­ic­al pro­fes­sion­als, plus some non-med­ic­al can­did­ates, from both parties.)

An­es­thesi­olo­gists may not take over Con­gress any time soon, but con­sider the ASA’s ag­gress­ive spend­ing an­oth­er symp­tom of how the de­bate over health care has in­flu­enced Amer­ic­an elec­tions over the past few years — and how in­terest groups spend big money to get their own kind in­to high of­fice.

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