Health-care industry helps fund Deal transition
By JIM WALLS
Health-care interests — including a $700 million-a-year state vendor — top a partial list of donors to Gov. Nathan Deal‘s transition and inaugural committee.
Deal has not yet identified those donors, but my review of campaign finance and lobbyist disclosures has turned up some of them. Twenty corporations and special-interest groups reported giving the committee more than $130,000, including $77,500 from health-care interests.
Among the largest known donors, at $25,000, was Centene Corp., parent company of Peach State Health Plan Inc. Peach State earned $713 million in 2010 as one of three managed care organizations under Georgia’s Medicaid health plan. The state plans to seek new bids for that service when the companies’ current contracts expire this year.
Peach State has had trouble meeting its obligations under the Georgia contract, culminating in a $3.7 million fine in 2007 for tardiness in approving patients’ requests for medical coverage. State auditors found Peach State in nearly one in five cases took too long to grant “prior authorization” for medical coverage — putting patients waiting for critical care or medications at risk, according to news reports at the time.
Jay Morgan, co-chair of Deal’s transition and inaugural committee and former Georgia GOP executive director, also happens to be one of four Peach State lobbyists in Georgia.
Other top donors to the committee included NDC Inc. ($25,000), an association of medical-product distributors; United Health Services of Georgia ($10,000), which operates a dozen or so psychiatric hospitals that did $675,000 in business with the state last year; and the Georgia Hospital Association ($5,000).
Many hospitals and medical suppliers have an interest in a recent proposal to end the sales tax exemption for purchases by non-profit hospitals. Providers of psychiatric care, meanwhile, may benefit from an additional $77 million that Georgia has pledged to spend on mental health services over the next two years.
Most of the donations to the Gubernatorial Inauguration and Transition Committee of 2011, a non-profit corporation, were reported on campaign finance reports as political expenditures. Others were disclosed as campaign contributions to Deal or, in one case, as a lobbyist expense.
Deal has promised the committee will disclose its donors. But state law does not require it to do so.
“We don’t have jurisdiction over inaugural committees,” said Stacey Kalberman, executive secretary of the Georgia Campaign Finance Commission. “Basically they’re private organizations who raise money for a party.”
Deal’s inaugural party — an invitation-only affair at Philips Arena featuring country music star Luke Bryan — was canceled by last week’s snowstorm. The committee is still processing refunds for 4,000-plus tickets that were sold at $50 a pop.
The committee hopes to organize another event when the weather gets warmer and the governor has some free time, Morgan said. Once that event is held and all the bills are paid, he said, the committee will disclose its finances.
Donations disclosed so far in campaign finance and lobbyist reports are:
- $25,000 Centene Corp.
- $25,000 NDC Inc.
- $10,000 Realtors PAC
- $10,000 United Health Services of Georgia PAC
- $5,000 Builders PAC (Home Builders Association of Georgia)
- $5,000 Georgia Bankers Association PAC
- $5,000 Georgia Health Care Association PAC
- $5,000 Georgia Hospital Association
- $5,000 Georgia Medical PAC
- $5,000 Georgia Oilmen’s Association
- $5,000 Georgia Wholesalers for Better Government
- $5,000 Honeywell International PAC
- $5,000 McGuire Woods Federal PAC
- $5,000 United Distributors Inc.
- $2,500 Committee for Responsible Government of Temple-Inland Inc.
- $2,500 Georgia Branch Associated General Contractors PAC
- $2,500 Georgia Optometric Association
- $2,000 Georgia Better Government Fund (Georgia Apartment Association)
- $1,000 Associated Builders and Contractors of Georgia
- $1,000 Georgia Forestry Association PAC