On May 23, state Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland) and four co-sponsors from his Democratic caucus took a first step toward cutting off a large and confounding source of political cash.
The legislation Greenlick is pushing, House Joint Resolution 32, would prohibit companies that get more than half of their funding from public sources from giving candidates or political action committees more than $500 a year.
So who's the joint resolution targeting?
Greenlick says he's looking at groups that are primarily funded by Medicaid dollars. (Medicaid funds come from both state and federal sources.) He thinks a few paving companies or other contractors might also qualify—but he's sure about the medical groups.
His concern is that organizations dependent on public dollars may be using them for political purposes rather than on patient care. The Medicaid-funded groups have a variety of legislative goals, but broadly speaking, they want policies that will maximize their revenue and minimize regulation, neither of which may be in the public interest.
"I'm going after managed care groups," says Greenlick, longtime head of the House Health Care Committee. "That's whose really on my mind."
Greenlick may face an uphill battle. Six PACs whose donors are Medicaid-funded have given nearly $6 million in political contributions since Jan. 1, 2010—and their donations have gone to some of the most powerful figures in both parties.
Doctors for Healthy Communities (Portland) $1.54 million
Douglas County Physicians PAC (Roseburg) $1.24 million
Coalition for a Healthy Oregon PAC (Portland) $1.13 million
Low Income Dental PAC (Amity) $788,000
Coalition for a Healthy Oregon (Wilsonville) $775,000
AllCare Physicians PAC (Grants Pass) $278,000
FamilyCare Health (Portland) $166,000
Total $5.93 million
Recipients of contributions from those PACs since Jan. 1, 2010, include current legislative leaders from both parties and the current chairs of the Senate and House Health Care committees.
Gov. John Kitzhaber $665,000
Rep. Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte) $306,000
House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) $165,000
Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson (D-Gresham) $107,000
Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) $78,000
Gov. Kate Brown $65,000
Sen. Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day) $23,000
Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland) $20,000