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.