Health Care Interests Have Contributed More Than $4M to Governor
Health care interests have contributed more than $4 million to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and his campaign funds since 2003, according to a MediaNews analysis of campaign records, MediaNews/Contra Costa Times reports. The analysis found that:
- Pharmaceutical firms collectively have contributed more than $1 million to the governor and his political funds;
- Insurance companies together have contributed about $950,000;
- Blue Cross of California was the leading health care-related contributor at $225,000, including contributions from an executive;
- Botox-manufacturer Allergan was the second-largest contributor from the health care sector, with donations totaling $207,300; and
- Kaiser Foundation Health Plan has contributed $150,000 to a 2004 ballot initiative committee that the governor headed.
Some health care advocates have raised questions about whether such contributions will influence the governor's health care reform proposal, which he is expected to announce this month.
Julie Soderlund, a spokesperson for the governor, said, "The governor makes decisions based on what's in the best interest of the people of California," adding, "Those who contribute do so because they believe in the governor's visions for the state" (Zapler, MediaNews/Contra Costa Times, 12/24/06).
Aides to Schwarzenegger are receiving stipends from his re-election campaign fund, which includes contributions from insurers, HMOs and other groups, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The governor's office said that $13,000 in October 2006 and November 2006 was paid to Adam Mendelsohn, Schwarzenegger's communications director, for work on the governor's re-election campaign. Records show that Clay Russell, the governor's personal assistant, was paid $20,000 in campaign funds between July and October 2006.
According to the Times, Mendolsohn receives a state salary of $123,000 annually, and Russell's annual state salary is $85,000.
State law permits public employees to receive stipends for campaign work from campaign accounts, but the Times reports that "only on rare occasions" did other governors make such payments to aides.
Some legislators and watchdog groups have called for payments from campaign accounts to state workers to be barred (Nicholas, Los Angeles Times, 12/28/06).
Some governor staffers' employment at Health Net also has drawn attention, according to MediaNews/Times.
Patricia Clarey in 2003 left the insurer to be chief of staff for the governor, occupying the position for about two years. Health Net in spring 2006 hired Clarey as chief operating officer.
In addition, former Schwarzenegger press secretary Margita Thompson recently joined Health Net as its vice president of corporate communications.
David Olson, a senior vice president at the insurer, said neither Cleary nor Thompson would participate in Health Net's lobbying activities related to the governor's health care reform proposal (MediaNews/Contra Costa Times, 12/24/06).