Established in 1853, the Texas Medical Association (TMA) and its affiliated PAC, Texas Medical Association PAC (TEXPAC) are among the largest and most active trade associations and political action committees in Texas.
TMA’s 50,000-person membership engages heavily during each legislative session. In 2003 TMA achieved its most notable legislative victory when they joined the Republican state leadership and a number of other interest groups in a high-profile fight for tort reform. The law advanced a broad range of lawsuit reforms, including limiting awards in medical malpractice cases. Since that time, TMA has taken a number of controversial positions on high-profile issues ranging from end-of-life care, specifically supporting doctors’ ability to place Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders in a patient’s file without family consent, and expanding Medicaid under Obamacare.
TEXPAC actively engages in state elections. They retain several political consultants, and screen, endorse, and contribute to a wide range of candidates. In some targeted races, they pay for and design ads and mailers on behalf of candidates.
TEXPAC itself donates large sums of money, but they also host events which indirectly raise even more money for candidates. Referred to as “bundling,” these events are not clearly reported in TEC filings.
Here’s how it works. TEXPAC offers to host a Meet & Greet fundraiser for multiple candidates they support. They book a venue and order some food for the group. They invite doctors, lobbyists, and other interest groups to attend the event, meet the candidates, and write their own personal checks. TEXPAC indirectly raises money for each candidate attending their event, but because TEXPAC doesn’t write a large check to the candidate directly, they don’t have to report the event as an expenditure in their TEC filing. If you’re savvy in reading TEC filings, there is one way to tell this is happening. When TEXPAC or anyone else hosts a bundling fundraiser, they are required to file with TEC as an ‘in-kind contribution,’ a disclosure of the cost of venue, food, and drink. If you host events with multiple candidates, like TEXPAC does, the total cost of the in-kind contribution is divided and reported equally among the candidates participating – so the TEC may show only a small in-kind contribution from TEXPAC to each candidate attending the event. TEXPAC’s reports reveal dozens of small in-kind contributions from fundraisers each cycle.
Let’s say TEXPAC hosts five candidates at a bundling fundraiser, where each candidate raises $25,000 from event attendees, and TEXPAC hosts 12 similar events in two years. TEXPAC has added $1.5 million to election coffers that isn’t directly attributed to them.
Republicans, Democrats, state legislators, federal legislators, governors, judges – TEXPAC has the funds to spread the wealth to all types of candidates who support their agenda. Many members of the Texas Legislature have received contributions from TEXPAC in one way or another. Less-favored candidates receive a $250 contribution, while highly-favored candidates receive support upwards of $30,000 – $80,000 (direct contributions, paid mailers, newspaper ads – not including contributions the officials received at TEXPAC bundling fundraisers).
Most Interesting Donation:
On May 31, 2016, TEXPAC paid Murphy Nasica & Associates over $26,000 as an in-kind expenditure for grassroots campaigning on behalf of State Representative Scott Cosper, then candidate for TX HD-54.
Background: A TMA legislative priority is “requiring medical school training and licensure for all who practice medicine.” This priority is at odds with the Texas Optometric Association, which supports “authority to practice to the fullest extent of their training” including prescribing certain medications.
2016 Runoff (HD-54): Former Killeen Mayor Scott Cosper and Killeen Optometrist Austin Ruiz were competing to fill the vacant seat of retiring State Representative Jimmy Don Aycock. The Texas Optometric PAC was supporting Mr. Ruiz. TEXPAC sensed a threat to one of their legislative priorities and sided with Mr. Cosper. Weighing-in heavily during the final weeks of the Republican primary runoff, TEXPAC not only paid for newspaper ads and mailers against Mr. Ruiz but also contracted Murphy Nasica & Associates on Mr. Cosper’s behalf for get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts. The race was decided by 39 votes in Mr. Cosper’s favor.
Arguably, TEXPAC’s last-minute investment in GOTV won the race. Including the runoff and the general elections, TEXPAC spent well over $80,000 directly and indirectly to support now State Rep. Cosper. It is unusual for TEXPAC to support a candidate by grassroots campaigning. TEXPAC saw a potential threat to their priorities and acted strongly to stop it.
Our Capitol Crowd series outlines and highlights the politicians, advocacy groups, and donors that have the biggest impact during the 140-day legislative session. Check back throughout session for updates.