The Oregon Hospital Association Sends Conciliatory Checks After Betting Big Against Kotek

The hospital PAC spent way more than usual on the governor’s race, but on losing candidates.

As is typical after a governor’s election, contributors have been sending checks to Gov. Tina Kotek since her victory over Republican Christine Drazan and unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson on Nov. 8.

Excluding some late-arriving election support, Kotek has disclosed receiving a little over $500,000 since Election Day. That money will defray the costs of her inauguration and allow her to begin building a war chest for the next election cycle.

Two of the biggest checks Kotek received came Dec. 13 and Jan. 5: $25,000 each time from the Oregon Association of Hospitals & Health Systems. (Kotek got $25,000 checks from other local corporate interests, including Nike and Regence, the health insurer.)

What’s different is that Nike and Regence supported Kotek in last year’s election, while the hospital association pursued an anyone-but-Kotek strategy. The group gave Kotek’s opponent in the Democratic primary, State Treasurer Tobias Read, $60,000; when Kotek defeated Read, the group gave Johnson $75,000 in the general election; and it gave Drazan $320,000, by far the most money it has ever given to any candidate.

So now Kotek is governor. That means she writes a budget, has considerable influence over the Democratically dominated Legislature, and holds the veto pen.

In the past, Service Employees International Union, a key Kotek supporter, has aggressively pushed Oregon hospitals to increase compensation to rank-and-file workers and to be more generous with charity care (lawmakers even passed a bill aimed at forcing them to do that). The Oregon Nurses Association, another longtime Kotek ally, has also expressed displeasure with staffing and compensation policies at Oregon hospitals.

So it’s understandable that the hospitals might have preferred a different candidate, but they went all in, spending more than double what they typically spend in a general election, on the premise that somebody other than a Democrat would occupy Mahonia Hall for the first time since 1987.

The hospitals spent $455,000 in an attempt to beat Kotek. Will the $50,000 they’ve given her now erase that memory? A spokesman for the group declined to comment.