Published 9/1/2019
Fred Essis; Stacie Monroe

Your Dollars Invested: How OrthoPAC Makes a Difference

The AAOS Orthopaedic Political Action Committee (OrthoPAC) specifically supports members of Congress and candidates for federal office who understand the issues orthopaedic surgeons face on a daily basis and who will be sensitive to such concerns while in office. OrthoPAC is a nonpartisan entity that contributes to Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and party committees that share and support its views. By engaging politicians and their staffs, OrthoPAC promotes access to musculoskeletal care and influences health policy.

OrthoPAC’s mission is to help advance the legislative agenda of AAOS and specialty societies by opening political doors and providing access to policymakers. That access provides opportunities to express the PAC’s well-reasoned viewpoints on the latest issues (e.g., physician payment reform, medical liability reform, access to care, antitrust reform, research funding, graduate medical education funding).


A PAC’s power and political clout are measured by its size. Rest assured, OrthoPAC is the largest healthcare disburser in the nation and has the highest participation rate among all physician and dental PACs. That fact is widely known in our nation’s capitol, and members of Congress are well aware that our membership is engaged and paying close attention to their work. In the most recent election cycle, our specialty was represented at more than 1,400 political events in Washington, D.C., and in congressional districts—a 25 percent increase from the preceding election cycle.

OrthoPAC works with all candidates and elected officials to advance the interests of the specialty, regardless of political party. Republican and Democratic candidates alike are important to the specialty, often on different issues, and seats of power shift between the parties. OrthoPAC protects the profession—not a party. AAOS likes to say that you can’t spell orthopaedic without an R, D, or I.

In the 2018 election, OrthoPAC supported more than 320 incumbents and candidates, leadership PACs, and party committees in the U.S. House and Senate. It is a member of both the Republican and Democratic Governors Associations, as well as the Democratic and Republican State Legislative Committees, in order to increase OrthoPAC’s reach and access in the states.

Last cycle, OrthoPAC saw an incredible 88 percent “win rate.” Heading into the 2020 presidential election, OrthoPAC will play a major role in open or closely contested seats, supporting candidates early and helping to connect AAOS members so they can grow relationships in their own congressional districts.

Giving tiers

OrthoPAC uses a tiered system to make contribution decisions based only on advocacy issues as directed by the AAOS Council on Advocacy, which includes specialty society representation. Furthermore, to ensure consistency, growth, and transparency, the OrthoPAC Executive Committee is guided by a specific document edited each election cycle that outlines criteria for political contributions.

The tiered structure for political giving ranks issues, leadership, committees with key health jurisdiction, and physician relationships. Every contribution is determined with thoughtful consideration by the AAOS Office of Government Relations (OGR), the OrthoPAC chair, and the OrthoPAC Executive Committee. This election season, OrthoPAC invested more than $2.7 million in candidates from both major political parties who are important to the orthopaedic specialty.

Although OrthoPAC is one of the largest healthcare PACs, it does not endorse or support presidential or vice presidential campaigns. Instead, funds are directed to House and Senate races, which provide more visibility and access.

In tier one, OrthoPAC considers orthopaedists running for Congress—such as Manny Sethi, MD, from Tennessee—and incumbent members of Congress who have jurisdiction on key healthcare-related committees—such as the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance. Those leaders are sound advocates and partners for OrthoPAC’s issues.

Tier two includes incumbent members of Congress on committees that have jurisdiction on some important healthcare issues. For example, the U.S. House Committee on Judiciary handles antitrust and some medical liability reform measures. Those individuals have a proven track record of supporting niche issues of the orthopaedic community. Although they may not always be on our side, cultivating relationships on issues we both support is crucial to our advocacy agenda.

Finally, tier three considers all other members of Congress and special requests from PAC members. All tier three contributions must be approved by the OrthoPAC chair. Candidates who fall outside of the established criteria are reviewed carefully by the OrthoPAC Executive Committee to ensure that money is invested where it will best represent the specialty. In addition to the established criteria, the OrthoPAC Executive Committee approves the independent expenditure strategy, as well as reviews open seats and challenger races. Additionally, the insights and viewpoints of OrthoPAC contributors are always welcome and play a vital role in decisions to support candidates or officeholders (see sidebar).

General principles

Orthopaedic surgeons who are members of the OrthoPAC are encouraged to attend local political events and present checks in their districts to better connect members of Congress to orthopaedic leaders in communities. OrthoPAC members who host in-district events can request as much as $5,000 for members of Congress on the aforementioned key committees. For example, in June, AAOS First Vice President Joseph A. Bosco III, MD, FAAOS, and Claudette Lajam, MD, hosted an event in honor of Dr. Sethi, who is seeking to fill an open seat in the U.S. Senate in 2020. OrthoPAC encourages all AAOS leadership to attend and host similar events in their own states and congressional districts.

OrthoPAC can contribute as much as $10,000 per candidate per election cycle. More specifically, it can donate only $5,000 to a candidate’s primary election and $5,000 to a candidate’s general election. Under Federal Election Commission law, personal contributions from AAOS members can be used for political candidates, whereas corporate contributions cannot. Corporate OrthoPAC contributions are instead used for operational expenses, independent expenditures, and state party committee donations.

All contributions to the OrthoPAC are greatly appreciated, but personal contributions are preferred because they help further the AAOS advocacy agenda. OrthoPAC will always be clear about the giving criteria and will actively work with both sides of the aisle to advance the quality of musculoskeletal care. Every dollar invested can be found in the OrthoPAC’s annual report, which is publicly available at https://bit.ly/30c6O1k.

Your voice

Membership in the OrthoPAC begins with a monetary donation of any amount. The choice is simple: Sit and watch from the sidelines—or stand up, make the collective voice of the orthopaedic community heard, and give orthopaedic surgeons the opportunity to help shape legislation in the best interest of our patients and our profession.

Join the team: Text AAOS to 41444, and make a difference today.

Want to make a contribution request?
The AAOS Orthopaedic Political Action Committee (OrthoPAC) strongly encourages its members to attend in-district events to facilitate open communication and develop relationships with members of Congress. To facilitate this, the OrthoPAC Executive Committee considers all contribution requests brought forth by a contributing OrthoPAC member.

To make a request, contact Stacie Monroe, senior manager in the AAOS Office of Government Relations, at 202-546-4150 or monroe@aaos.org.

Fred Essis is the political affairs coordinator in the AAOS OGR.

Stacie Monroe is the senior manager of political affairs in the AAOS OGR.