ADA's PAC helps dentists' political campaigns

By Donna Domino, DrBicuspid.com features editor

February 21, 2014 -- The ADA's independent political action committee (PAC) is providing financial support to re-elect Idaho congressman and dentist Mike Simpson, DMD, one of two dentists the group helped get elected to Congress.

Rep. Mike Simpson
Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), an ADA-supported dentist who is running for re-election. Image courtesy of Mike Simpson for Congress.

Rep. Simpson (R-ID), a 15-year veteran of Congress and a close ally of Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), is facing a well-financed challenge this year from tea party candidate Bryan Smith in the Republican primary.

The American Dental Political Action Committee (ADPAC) has already spent the maximum $5,000 on the May primary. But the ADA has also set up an independent expenditure account to support Dr. Simpson, which has spent $22,000 for campaign mailers and $20,000 to call Idaho voters.

The ADPAC has spent an average of $2.5 million in each of the last three election cycles, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $150,000 for television and internet ads in December supporting Dr. Simpson.

The GOP primary in Idaho's 2nd Congressional District, which stretches from Boise to the Wyoming border, has become a proxy battle of sorts in the ongoing civil war between the Republican establishment (which backs Dr. Simpson) and the tea party wing of the GOP (backing Smith).

Dr. Simpson, a senior lawmaker and chairman of a House Appropriations subcommittee, is now powerful enough to be considered a "cardinal" on Capitol Hill (a term applied to the chairmen or ranking members of appropriations subcommittees).

He is a valued ally for the ADA who helped stall funding for "alternative dental healthcare provider demonstration projects" that were created as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Dr. Simpson is facing a well-financed challenge by Smith, who has raised more than $525,000, including his own money, and is backed by the deep pockets of the conservative Club for Growth.

The ADA has stepped up to help re-elect Dr. Simpson, who practiced for 22 years in Blackfoot, ID, and whose father was a dentist.

"Mike Simpson is a legislator who understands that oral health is important to overall health and the role of dentistry in maintaining oral health," Mike Graham, the ADA's senior vice president of government and public affairs, told DrBicuspid.com. "He has supported legislation to improve access to care and has maintained open communications with our dentists, not just in his district and Idaho, but across the country."

“Mike Simpson is a legislator who understands that oral health is important to overall health and the role of dentistry in maintaining oral health.”
— Mike Graham, ADA senior vice
     president of government and public
     affairs

But Graham pointed out: "We don't support every dentist running for office," he said. "Not all dentists are focused on the things we're focused on."

ADPAC has also contributed to Brian Babin, DDS, a Woodville, TX, dentist and Republican candidate who is running for the U.S. House of Representatives this year.

ADPAC also provided financial support for John Scott Keadle, DDS, a North Carolina dentist who mounted an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. House in the 2012 Republican primary.

Dr. Simpson's experience as a healthcare provider who also ran a small business gives him insight into issues facing dentists in the ongoing recession, said his spokesperson, Sarah Nelson.

"As a dentist, not only does he have a great understanding of our nation's healthcare policy and how it impacts local communities, dentists, and those in the healthcare industry, but his dental practice also made him a small-business owner,” Nelson told DrBicuspid.com. "In addition to being doctors and understanding healthcare policy, most dentists are small-business owners who understand what it means to meet payrolls and the challenges that come from being small-business owners. Congressman Simpson's background has been very helpful to him on both of those levels."

She acknowledged how helpful the ADA and dentists in general have been to Dr. Simpson's political career. "They have been very supportive," Nelson said, noting that the dental community held a fundraiser in fall 2013.

Dr. Simpson was one of a handful of Republicans to vote in favor of the reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) in 2008. He also introduced legislation regarding methamphetamine, specifically how the drug affects caries or "meth mouth."

Dr. Simpson is known to have broken several sounding boards with the gavel while calling the House of Representatives to order. This inspired him to have a number of sounding boards produced in Idaho, which he presented to then Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) as a joke.

ADPAC also provided crucial financial support for another congressman and dentist, Rep. Paul Gosar, DDS (R-AZ), when he ran for re-election against a tea party challenger in 2012. ADPAC put $151,000 into the campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Barney Keller, a spokesman for the Club for Growth, said his organization is determined to defeat Dr. Simpson. The group spent almost $600,000 in its unsuccessful bid to oust Dr. Gosar in 2012.

"When you drill down on Mike Simpson's record, if you're a fiscal conservative, it's going to hurt worse for your wallet than a root canal," Keller told DrBicuspid.com. "We try to replace liberal, big government politicians with more fiscally conservative ones, and we'll fight tooth and nail for that, whether they're dentists or dental patients."


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