Money talks in health care: drug makers, hospitals, doctors, tobacco spend heavily

Drug makers, physicians, hospitals, tobacco companies and a major HMO spent hundreds of millions dollars to influence government during the past decade. Their spending accounted for more than a fifth of the $1.33 billion spent during the period.

The figures were compiled by the Fair Political Practices Commission, which enforces the state’s campaign finance laws. The FPPC’s full report can be viewed here.

A half-dozen health-related interests spent $273.2 million during the decade from Jan. 1, 2000, through Dec. 31, 2009. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, led the group with $104.9 million.

All but about $9 million of PhRMA’s spending involved a pair of dueling ballot initiatives in 2005. One of the measures, Proposition 79, would have set up a drug discount program, which PhaRMA opposed. The group spent $50.7 million to oppose Proposition 79, and $44.8 million to support Proposition 78, the drug industry’s own drug-discount program. Both of them were defeated.

PhRMA also spent about $3.2 million to support Proposition 75, which sought to bar the use of public employees’ union dues for political contributions. The measure also was defeated.

PhRMA’s spending was third overall in the top 25 interests, behind two powerful labor groups, the  California Teachers Association and the California State Council of Service Employees.

In the spending by health care interests, the California Hospital Association spent $43.2 million, the California Medical Association spent $23 million and Anthem Blue Cross spent $21.9 million.

The FPPC’s figures on the CMA’s spending includes money from several CMA-controlled committees and PACs. More than three-fourths of the CMA’s spending was used to benefit candidates through the use of independent expenditure committees.

Between them, two tobacco companies spent about $80 million – $50.8 million from Philip Morris and $29.2 million from Reynolds American.

As a group, spending by public-employee unions –including the California Teachers Associatio– represented just over a fourth of the $1.33 billion total. The 325,000-member CTA tallied the largest expenditure by a single entity, $211.8 million, followed by the California State Council of Service Employees, which spent $107.4 million.

The FPPC’s figures also showed six tribal groups – Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Pala Band of Mission Indians and United Auburn Indian Community – spent $280,068,368.

Energy-related entities, including Chevron Corp, Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the Western States Petroleum Association and Aera Energy LLC spent $182.5 million.

The remaining spenders on the top 15 list, apart from the tribes, were PG&E ($69.2 million), Chevron ($66.3 million), AT&T ($59.6 million), Philip Morris USA ($50.8 million), Southern California Edison ($43.4 million), the California Hospital Association ($43.3 million), California Chamber of Commerce ($39 million), Western States Petroleum Association ($35.2 million) and Aera Energy LLC ($34.6 million.

As a group, public employee unions – the CTA, California Correctional Peace Officers Association, California School Employees Association and California State Council of Service Employees – together spent some $383.6 million, or about 28 percent of the total.

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