by Max Brantley
Washington Post explores an important angle on U.S. Rep. Mike Ross and fellow Blue Dogs. You know, the supposed "fiscal conservatives"? Health industry bitches is more like it.
On June 19, Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas made clear that he and a group of other conservative Democrats known as the Blue Dogs were increasingly unhappy with the direction that health-care legislation was taking in the House.
"The committees' draft falls short," the former pharmacy owner said in a statement that day, citing, among other things, provisions that major health-care companies also strongly oppose.
Five days later, Ross was the guest of honor at a special "health-care industry reception," one of at least seven fundraisers for the Arkansas lawmaker held by health-care companies or their lobbyists this year, according to publicly available invitations.
The roiling debate about health-care reform has been a boon to the political fortunes of Ross and 51 other members of the Blue Dog Coalition, who have become key brokers in shaping legislation in the House.
... Ross has received nearly $1 million in contributions from the health-care sector and insurance industry during his five terms in Congress, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign contributions. The lawmaker founded Ross Pharmacy of Prescott, Ark., which he and his wife sold in 2007. The couple received $100,000 to $1 million in dividends last year from the sale, according to House financial disclosure forms
UPDATE: Read on for more details from Paul Barton in Washington on contributions to Ross from the health industrial complex.
By PAUL BARTON
WASHINGTON – Rep. Mike Ross, who has played a leading role in the House debate over health care reform debate, shows three of his top five campaign contributors to be health-care companies, as well as several other health-related firms and associations in his top 20.
And some of the more prominent individuals giving to Ross from around the country are executives and families connected to the health care industry, including many that have given to prominent Republicans as well.
These findings come from a breakdown of Ross’s 2010 campaign contributions by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research organization. Ross, a Democrat, is running for his fifth term.
Overall, health professionals form the leading industry giving to Ross so far in this election cycle, giving him $34,250.
Ross’s office, despite being repeatedly contacted Thursday night and this morning, offered no reply.
The Center for Responsive Politics, which analyzes data from Federal Election Commission records, found that of the Arkansas representative’s top five contributors so far for his 2010 race, three of them are health related -- the American Dental Association ($10,000), the American Health Care Association ($7,500) and Invacare Corp., a firm that makes wheelchairs, disability scooters and other durable medical equipment ($7,300).
The figures reflect contributions both from political action committees and employees of the companies. They also reflect money given, in some cases, to Ross’s personal political action committee, Our Country PAC, rather than directly to his campaign.
Also in his Top 20 are the National Association of Retail Druggists ($5,000), the American Occupational Therapy Association ($2,500), Wellpoint Inc. ($2,500) and the American Nurses Association ($2,500).
His top organizational donor is the political action committee operated by the Blue Dogs themselves, ($15,000).
Among individuals who have been top contributors to Ross are many related to what critics call the “medical industrial complex” and who give to top Republicans as well.
For instance, on June 24, the Center for Responsive Politics shows, Ross received two contributions of $2,400each (the maximum, reflecting a contribution for both primary and general elections) from Barbara W. Mixon of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, near Cleveland. Barbara Mixon and her husband, Mal Mixon, head of Invacare, have also given to numerous Republican candidates and causes.
Other prominent executive giving to Ross from the health care industries is Alan Panzer, president of U.S. Surgical Corp., who gave him $2,000 on June 30, plus Alan J. Landauer of Landauer Metropolitan Medical Equipment ($1,500). Still other health-care related companies whose executives have given to Ross include Carolina Homecare Medical Equipment, Fuller Rehabilitation of Georgia and MTS Health Partners/Investment Bank of New York.
Outside of health care-related sources, Ross also seems to be drawing widespread support from heads of payday lending firms, including William Webster of Advance America ($2,000) and David A. Davis of Axcess Financial ($2,000). Also contributing $1,000 so far is William A. Jones III of Cleveland, Ohio, who is connected to Check Into Cash.
In addition to supervising the health care industry, Ross’s main committee in Congress, House Energy and Commerce, has jurisdiction over laws affecting payday lending firms, which have come under heavy criticism for preying on the poor by attaching astronomical interest rates to their loans.