Why Is the Radiology PAC Rallying Against Radiologists?

The group is putting its money behind well-placed incumbents who sit on a powerful committee instead of its own brethren.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 11: U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) speaks to members of the media at the Capitol October 11, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. On the 11th day of a U.S. Government shutdown, President Barack Obama spoke with Speaker Boehner on the phone and they agreed that they should keep talking.
National Journal
Andrea Drusch
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Andrea Drusch
July 28, 2014, 6:15 p.m.

Doc­tors run­ning for of­fice can typ­ic­ally count on the en­dorse­ment of at least one group—their pro­fes­sion­al or­gan­iz­a­tion. Not so this year for Re­pub­lic­an ra­di­olo­gists.

While the Amer­ic­an Col­lege of Ra­di­ology As­so­ci­ation PAC is spend­ing more than $230,000 on prin­ted ma­ter­i­al for mail­ings in the Ten­ness­ee and Kan­sas Re­pub­lic­an primary races, the group is do­ing it to help Sens. Lamar Al­ex­an­der and Pat Roberts beat back chal­lenges from ra­di­olo­gists, PAC Dir­ect­or Ted Burnes told Na­tion­al Journ­al.

Why? Be­cause both Al­ex­an­der and Roberts serve on the Sen­ate’s Health, Edu­ca­tion, Labor, and Pen­sions Com­mit­tee, the pan­el with jur­is­dic­tion over is­sues im­port­ant to the ra­di­ology in­dustry.

“Roberts and Lamar are kind of big deals,” Burnes said. “One is po­ten­tially chair of [the com­mit­tee] if the Sen­ate flips, and Lamar has already been really good on ra­di­ology is­sues.”

Roberts is in a com­pet­it­ive primary race against ra­di­olo­gist Milton Wolf, a tea-party can­did­ate who’s un­der scru­tiny from the state’s med­ic­al board for post­ing private pho­tos of pa­tients’ X-rays on Face­book. In Ten­ness­ee, Al­ex­an­der is up against a hand­ful of dis­tant chal­lengers, in­clud­ing ra­di­olo­gist George Flinn, who won the PAC’s sup­port in a 2012 race against Demo­crat­ic Rep. Steve Co­hen.

Burnes said the de­cision to back Roberts and Al­ex­an­der rather than its own mem­bers was a ges­ture of sup­port to two in­cum­bents with whom the group wants to main­tain a good re­la­tion­ship. Roberts, in par­tic­u­lar, he said, has long been a cham­pi­on of the ra­di­ology in­dustry, and Al­ex­an­der is an in­vest­ment.

As for his ra­di­ology brethren, Burnes said it wasn’t per­son­al. Both can­did­ates reached out for sup­port in their races but were turned down. Burnes poin­ted to Flinn’s low pro­spects in the Ten­ness­ee primary (he’s be­hind the sen­at­or as well as a long-shot tea-party chal­lenger) and Wolf’s cur­rent con­tro­versy with the Kan­sas Board of Heal­ing Arts.

“Just be­cause someone’s a ra­di­olo­gist doesn’t mean they come to D.C. to be rep­res­ent­at­ive of ra­di­ology,” Burnes said. “I think, in Wolf’s case, he’s more ideo­lo­gic­ally based, and more “no” on most things.”

But among most med­ic­al PACs, back­ing one’s own is pretty com­mon. The Amer­ic­an So­ci­ety of An­es­thesi­olo­gists’ PAC made a big in­vest­ment in ob­stet­ric an­es­thesi­olo­gist Val Arkoosh, who ran for the Demo­crat­ic nom­in­a­tion in Pennsylvania’s 13th Dis­trict this cycle, and has pre­vi­ously backed Rep. Andy Har­ris of Mary­land, an an­es­thesi­olo­gist, and Rep. Larry Buc­shon of In­di­ana, whose wife is in the busi­ness. The Amer­ic­an Gast­roen­ter­o­lo­gic­al As­so­ci­ation PAC is sup­port­ing the only gast­roen­ter­o­lo­gist in Con­gress this cycle, Rep. Bill Cas­sidy of Louisi­ana, in his bid for the Sen­ate.

Burnes said RAD­PAC will also roll out a cam­paign for Rep. Bruce Bra­ley, a Demo­crat run­ning for the Sen­ate in Iowa, that in­cludes both ra­dio and mail and will ex­ceed $100,000.

RAD­PAC has backed Sens. Mitch Mc­Con­nell of Ken­tucky and John Cornyn of Texas this cycle.

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