The recent experience of RADPAC®, radiology’s political action committee (PAC), illustrates how successful fundraising, coupled with smart planning and execution, has helped it become one of the most effective organizations of its kind to represent the interest of specialty physicians on Capitol Hill.
In a lecture at ACR 2016: The Crossroad of Radiology®, Ted Burnes, director of RADPAC & Political Education for the College, described how RADPAC has contributed to recent Congressional successes, such as the abolition of Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR) policy, the mandate to Medicare for imaging clinical decision support and a delay in the implementation of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s misguided recommendations for screening mammography.
Though these measures may have won on their own merits, their pathway to adoption was cleared because of strong relationships between the American College of Radiology’s government relations staff and Congressional leaders who moved the legislation forward.
“None of this would have happened without ACRA member support,” Burnes noted. In 2015, RADPAC raised nearly $1.4 million in hard dollars from about 3,100 contributors. In a comparison to the more than 35 other specialty physician PACs, RADPAC ranked second only to the American Society of Anesthesiology for the amount of money raised.
In the first four months of 2016, RADPAC ran slightly behind last year’s performance, however. It received $480,328 in contributions as of April 30, compared with $520,304 on the same date in 2015. The year-to-date performance did not include the $100,000 to $150,000 collected at the 2016 ACR Annual Meeting. Burnes expected a modest decline in contributions raised from members during a presidential election year.
“Member support is especially strong among the 85 radiology group practices that have 100 percent member participation in RADPAC,” Burnes noted. For example, Austin Radiology Associates in Texas, wires $1,000 contributions from each of its members in the first week of January every year (Austin Radiology Associates has over 80 radiologists in its practice).
“Overall, only 14 percent of ACRA members contribute to RADPAC, however. Though this low percentage leaves room for improvement, RADPAC outperforms most specialty physician PACs, as the industry standard is about 10 percent participation,” Burnes said. Members may contribute up to $5,000 annually. Contributions from entities or individuals from outside the U.S. are prohibited.
March Madness and Radtoberfest Challenge campaigns are important to RADPAC’s fundraising efforts. Both encourage radiology residents, fellows and young practitioners to get into the habit of contributing to RADPAC with modest monetary contributions that can reward their state radiology associations with competition honors from the two events.
“Without them, we would be nowhere near where we are as far as how much money we have raised,” Burnes said.
RADPAC’s performance also depends on what it does its does with the money after it is raised.
“RADPAC generally focuses on Congressional races because of their potential impact on future legislation,” Burnes explained. In recent elections, RADPAC concentrated its spending on incumbents in the House of Representative, especially members on key congressional committees of jurisdiction, such as the House Energy and Committee Subcommittee on Health. This year, RADPAC will focus much of its attention on select Senate races that could determine which party wins majority control of the chamber.
“As a bipartisan PAC, RADPAC contributes anywhere from $800,000 to $1.2 million annually depending on political conditions and the size of the budget set aside for independent expenditures,” Burnes said. It is allowed to contribute up to $5,000 directly to a candidate or member of Congress for their primary campaign and another $5,000 for their general election campaign. RADPAC also gives direct financial support to the Republican and Democrat House and Senate party committees.
While direct contributions are closely regulated, fewer limits govern independent expenditures supporting federal campaigns. . In the 2014 elections, RADPAC spent a total of $1.1 million on independent expenditures for 13 different races with many of the expenditures for a Member of Congress’ campaign totaling more than $200,000–$300,000 for radio and web ads and direct mailers. Those benefiting from this high level of support are among the most radiology-friendly Members of Congress.
“People remember this stuff. It makes a difference,” Burnes said.
RADPAC generates additional attention by hosting about 15 fundraisers per year in Washington, DC, with each event raising more than $15,000 for favored Congressional members. It organizes another five-to-ten events per year, often in a radiologist’s home in the congressional district of the Member of Congress. These events typically raise more than $10,000.
After filtering through 50 invitations per day, Burnes and other ACRA staff members will attend about 500 political events annually.
“The old adage is true — especially here in DC with so many political players — you’re either at the table, or you’ll be on the menu,” Burnes said.