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Published 1/1/2009
Stuart L. Weinstein, MD

The Orthopaedic PAC and the 2008 elections

For the 2008 election cycle, the Political Action Committee of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (Ortho­paedic PAC) set new records—not only in contributions and support from the fellowship (Fig. 1), but also in successfully backing candidates who support our positions.

Most PAC contributions are delivered in Washington, D.C., but during the 2008 election cycle more than 70 Orthopaedic PAC checks were delivered in district by AAOS members at fundraising events. In addition to these contributions, the Orthopaedic PAC spent more than $650,000 on independent expenditures. These are funds spent separately and uncoordinated from a candidate’s campaign.

In the 2008 election cycle, the Orthopaedic PAC contributed to more than 20 Senate and 170 House races. In these races, 92 percent of the candidates supported by the Orthopaedic PAC were elected or re-elected to office. The Orthopaedic PAC supports both Democrats and Republicans who are sympathetic to the views of the orthopaedic community.

In the Senate Nearly all of the Senate candidates supported by the Orthopaedic PAC won their elections. However, Elizabeth Dole, the PAC-supported Republican incumbent in North Carolina, was defeated by Democrat Kay Hagan. The Orthopaedic PAC also supported Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, former governor of New Hampshire, in her winning campaign against incumbent Senator John Sununu.

In several open Senate seat races, the Orthopaedic PAC supported winning candidates—including Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia, and Republicans Jim Risch of Idaho and Mike Johanns of Nebraska. The Orthopaedic PAC also supported orthopaedic surgeon John A. Barrasso, MD, of Wyoming, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi in special elections to fill out the terms of the seats they had been appointed to fill. Both Republicans won their races.

Additionally the Orthopaedic PAC supported Republican incumbent Sens. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Norm Coleman of Minnesota. Initially, Sen. Chambliss fell just shy of the 50 percent threshold required to retain his seat, but went on to win a run-off election in early December. As of this writing, the race in Minnesota is still too close to call.

House races
The Orthopaedic PAC contributed to candidates in more than 175 House races, including 15 open seat races. Here, too, 92 percent of the candidates supported by the Orthopaedic PAC won their races.

During this cycle, more than 30 incumbent House members were retiring, leaving a majority of Republican open seats. In open-seat races, early money is often very effective in determining the outcome. The Orthopaedic PAC made contributions in 15 races; 12 of the candidates supported by the PAC won seats in the House.

Access and opportunity
Health care is a $2.4 trillion industry and is heavily regulated. The Orthopaedic PAC gives the AAOS a place at the table and enables us not only to help make things happen but also to help prevent things from happening. It gives us the opportunity to frame the debate, through clearly-defined “asks,” facts that support our point of view, and credible messengers—including both staff and volunteers.

The Orthopaedic PAC will continue to support the following issues:

  • Strengthening the physician-patient relationship
  • Reducing the regulatory burden on physicians
  • Enacting meaningful medical liability reform at the Federal level
  • Fixing the flawed Medicare payment formula
  • Advocating for additional musculoskeletal research funding
  • Supporting orthopaedists control of imaging services for musculoskeletal conditions
  • Implementing health information technology smoothly and without undue burdens on physicians

Legislators recognize the importance of listening to their local constituents, and orthopaedic surgeons who have or are willing to build relationships with their congressional representatives may become powerful voices on behalf of the entire orthopaedic community. If you would like to get involved with the Orthopaedic PAC on the local level, please give me a call or e-mail me at stuart-weinstein@uiowa.edu

If you have been a regular contributor to the PAC, I want to thank you for your support and encourage you to increase your yearly contribution. If you have never given to the PAC, I hope that you can begin to see the importance of a regular cycle of giving. I encourage you to visit the PAC Web site, www.aaos.org/pac, to review the materials or make a donation.

Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, is chairman of the Orthopaedic PAC and a past president of the AAOS. He can be reached at stuart-weinstein@uiowa.edu