Doctors Leery of Forming Super PAC

On Tuesday, the American Medical Association's House of Delegates debated the wisdom of forming a so-called Super PAC to help influence elections. However, the idea raised a number of concerns.

The American Medical Association’s House of Delegates on Tuesday strategized about ways to influence the nation’s policy-making, but the legislative body choose to take a cautious approach when it comes to high-dollar campaign contributions.

“We still continue to believe it’s a good idea for the AMA to carefully consider other options for helping to fund election of physicians to the United States Congress,” said William Clark, MD, of Georgia, during testimony at the AMA’s annual meeting in Chicago.

At issue Tuesday was whether or not the association ought to create a Super Political Action Committee, or “Super PAC” in order to achieve that goal.

The AMA already has a political action committee, or PAC, known as AMPAC. However, as a traditional PAC, AMPAC is subject to certain rules, such as a cap on the amount an individual can give to the PAC in a particular election year.

Forming a Super PAC, or independent expenditure-only committee, would allow the organization to take in unlimited sums of money, though it wouldn’t be able to contribute that money directly to any candidate.

The AMA’s Board of Trustees had previously been asked to create and provide funding for a Super PAC. However, in its report back to the House of Delegates, the board said using AMA corporate funds for a Super PAC was “not a fiscally responsible option for funding a Super PAC and should not be pursued.” Concerns were also raised about unintended consequences that could arise from soliciting funding from outside organizations.

John W. Poole, MD, who serves on AMPAC’s board of directors, said he didn’t think the AMA should join a fundraising arms race.

“[If] the AMA were to spend $20-30 million on a race and try to compete with high-profile money out there, that’s not a good idea,” he said.

The delegates ultimately voted to refer the matter back to committee for further investigation. Some suggested bringing in outside advice from a lawyer or other group to better understand the different ways the association can influence elections.

In an interview with MD Magazine following the vote, incoming AMA President Steven J. Stack, MD, said he believes his organization is best served when it derives clout from being responsible for millions of patients’ healthcare, rather than from money.

“I think that rather than writing a check for a hundred-million dollars to some candidate to get into office, we have far broader appeal and far greater relevance and impact when we advocate a message that is so clearly in support of high-quality care for patients,” he said.