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Physicians’ Donations To Political Parties: You Get What You Give

Why don’t docs get more of what they want in DC?  There’s a quite instructive graph in a blog post from NRO last week (talking about Union campaign donations), but I found this one to be very instructive, and have added labels so the point cannot be missed:

In politics, generally what you give is what you get. I’ve taken to giving more to the PACs that represent me.

As an aside, it’s political malpractice to give only to one party (Teachers). Eventually that one party will be on the outs, and then where are you?

*This blog post was originally published at GruntDoc*

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3 Responses to “Physicians’ Donations To Political Parties: You Get What You Give”

  1. Ben says:

    I won’t even bother focusing on the absurdity of lumping Labor into one pile while subdividing industry, other than to point out that a more accurate comparison from the same source has been done here: (labor is responsible for a total of 5% of political donations in 2010).

    My germane gripe is that you’ve posted – and drawn conclusions from – a graph that has no bearing on what you think it is saying. If you go to OpenSecrets (where this graph gets its data) you’ll find that with the exception of lawyers (for whom healthcare is only one of many lobbying interests), healthcare professionals have since FY1990 been BY FAR the largest donors within the industries you highlighted (giving at nearly twice the level of the next health-industry sector, and – it should be pointed out – at more than twice the level of public-sector unions). You can get a year-by-year breakdown by sector here:

    As the source I’m citing here are the same one that the graph you posted claims to use, it raises the question of how the data for your graph was compiled. The National Review article where you pulled this from appears to have grabbed this graph from Anthony Davies who – in order to make labor unions look bad – used an unorthodox method of data collection: it looked ONLY at the top 100 SINGLE DONORS, rather than at industry aggregates. In other words, the Service Employees International Union as a single large entity gave a large amount of money ($8 million), whereas – because the checks were coming from several sources (AMA, ADA, AAFP, American College of Cardiology, etc etc) for the healthcare provider dollars, most of these organizations were simply excluded from the top 100 donors as they weren’t individually large to make the cut. This is an interesting breakdown of the data in its own right, but the only thing it really measures is how monopolistic the industry is: in industries with a small number of large donors – such as telecoms and investment – there is a good chance that a specific company will make the ‘top 100’, whereas in industries with large numbers of smaller companies (like healthcare providers), only a small fraction of those companies will have large enough contributions to make it into the calculation. It’s worth noting that the total donations of all the groups incorporated into this graph make up a tiny fraction of the $1.8B/yr that is donated.

    Both you and the National Review looked at the graph and saw what you wanted to see: “Labor unions are powerful”; “Physicians are getting the shaft”… but this isn’t what your graph says. As always, there are “Lies, damned lies, and statistics”

  2. GruntDoc says:

    I didn’t see what I wanted to see, quite the opposite.

    I was unaware of the methodology behind the graph, and I thought it was interesting, so I blogged it. (And I pointed out one special interest group that’s not very politically smart).

    Sorry it gave you so much heartburn.

  3. Ben says:

    haha… Yeah, perhaps it gave me more heartburn than strictly necessary. I’ve just become a little frustrated with the entire political discourse of late, where each side has its own set of facts, which are often based on major misconceptions… and these misconceptions seem to often be purposely crafted by interested parties in order to skew the dialogue. That makes it extra galling when these “facts” are rebroadcast uncritically by smart people who the public looks to for unbiased information. I’m not sure any of this is actually a new phenomenon, but it seems more overt these days. Anyway, thanks for the response.

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