ELECTION ’12//CONGRESS 15 | Last weekend, the business website, Bloomberg, reported a $4,000 campaign contribution to congressional candidate, Eric Swalwell, from Wellpoint Inc., the second-largest private insurance company in America, for this reporting period. During the summer, the politically active insurance company contributed $1,000 to Swalwell.
Bloomberg cites a filing made by Wellpoint Inc’s political action committee (WellPAC) that was made on Oct. 3 to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Bloomberg says that Swalwell is the only candidate to receive funding from Wellpoint that is running for federal office that is challenging an incumbent.
But what makes Wellpoint Inc. more notable than their status in health insurance is their essential financial support to two for-profit groups that former presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, utilized when he was eyeing for a political comeback that surmised into a run for president. The for-profit groups were pillars of “Newt Inc,” Gingrich Group, a consulting firm, and the think tank, Center for Health Transformation which Wellpoint Inc, paid expensive fees to be a member of. Gingrich is well known for his fervent opposition to the Affordable Health Care Act when he ran for president despite his previous support for a health care mandate. His think tank also supported a mandate for those who made above $50,000-a-year and Wellpoint, who although hasn’t publicly opposed Obama’s health care act, did take a financial hit after the Supreme Court upheld the health law. Since then, Wellpoint accomplished a landmark merger in response to the Affordable Health Care Act with Amerigroup who mainly services Medicaid customers.
While Wellpoint Inc. contributes money to both Democrats and Republicans they tend to spend considerably more on Republican candidates. Wellpoint Inc, according to the last reporting period on OpenSecrets.org, had contributed $147,000 to Democrats and $342,000 to Republicans running for office in the House of Representatives. For the Senate, Wellpoint gave a mere $11,500 to Democrats compared to $90,000 to Republicans.
Wellpoint Inc., and their Anthem Blue Cross unit, stirred up controversy in 2010 when they roped in billions in profits while lowering their medical coverage to its consumers as they spiked premium rates. Stark was critical of this in 2010 noting that since Wellpoint Inc. had made so much money that it was time for them to return “those windfalls to their enrollees in the form of reduced premiums.” Stark also was critical of Swalwell when Bloomberg contacted his campaign, “I’ve never been afraid to take on for-profit health insurance companies and special interests,” said Stark. “I’m proud to be supported by doctors, nurses, teachers and firefighters, and not surprised that a for-profit insurance company would support my opponent.”
Eric Swalwell’s spokeswoman, Lisa Tucker says that although donors may not always agree with Swalwell they do agree “100 percent with Eric and the constituents in the 15th Congressional District that it is time for Pete Stark to retire.” Swalwell has ran on a campaign slogan of “new energy and new ideas” and has been consistently attacking Stark on his long term incumbency, controversial antics towards others and large PAC donations that consists largely of donors from the medical industry. Stark has received large sums of money from medical insurer, Blue Shield, which has donated more to Republicans than Democrats nationwide. Swalwell supports the Affordable Health Care Act.
Wellpoint’s PAC also donated to California politicians Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Brian Bilbray (R-CA), Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) among others. Also, according to Bloomberg, “the PAC also donated to the re-election campaign of Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who polls show is in a close race with Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren.”
Shane Bond is a regular contributor to the East Bay Citizen.