Campaign Contributions From The American Medical Political Action Committee To Members Of Congress -- For or against the Public Health?

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Abstract

Background

The American Medical Political Action Committee (AMPAC), the political arm of the American Medical Association (AMA), contributed $2.4 million to candidates for Congress during the 1989-1990 campaign and $2.9 million during the 1991-1992 campaign. It is not known whether these funds preferentially benefited representatives who supported the AMA's positions on public health issues.

Methods

We analyzed AMPAC contributions to members of the House of Representatives during the 1989-1990 and 1991-1992 campaigns according to their votes on three health-related issues: the promotion of tobacco exports, the institution of a mandatory waiting period before a handgun purchase, and the so-called gag rule, which limited physicians' speech on abortion in federally funded clinics. For each issue, we determined whether AMPAC had contributed more on average to opponents or to supporters of the official AMA position.

Results

AMPAC contributed more on average to opponents of the AMA positions on all three public health issues. From 1989 to 1992, AMPAC gave significantly larger average contributions to House members who favored tobacco-export promotion than to those who opposed it ($11,549 vs. $9,842, P = 0.04) and contributed significantly less on average to supporters of handgun control than to their opponents ($9,022 vs. $11,250, P = 0.001). During the same period, AMPAC's contributions revealed a marked preference for House members who supported the gag rule over those who opposed it ($10,961 vs. $9,611, P = 0.05). House members who supported the AMA positions on all three votes received an average of $8,800 from AMPAC from 1989 through 1992, whereas members who opposed all three positions received an average of $13,270 (correlation between the number of votes for AMA positions and AMPAC contributions, -0.21; P<0.001).

Conclusions

AMPAC's contributions to members of the House of Representatives belie the AMA positions on some important public health issues. (N Engl J Med 1994;330:32-7.)

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