Vol. 31, No. 4, pp. 279–283
Copyright c 2007 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
The Value of the Political
Dollars and Influence for Nurse
Diane M. Twedell, DNP, RN, CNAA; Jo Ann Webb, MHA, RN
Nurse leaders play an important role in the shaping of healthcare policy and the care delivery models of the future. It is vital for nurse leaders to understand the role of money in politics and how donations to a candidate’s campaigns can be beneficial in getting one’s concerns addressed by Congress. The political action committee (PAC) is a major vehicle for campaign contributions for candidates from any party. This article will detail the following related to PACs: history and background information, government regulations, and why PACs are an important vehicle for nurse leaders to gain access and influence in Congress. Key words: campaign, government, nurse leaders, political action committee, politics
URSES are the largest group of healthcare professionals in the United States and have the ability to wield considerable political power, but historically they have lacked the desire to do so. One of the key mechanisms for access to politicians and policy makers is through monetary donations. Generally, when nurses associate money and politics, there are negative connotations to this, and frankly, very few nurses take the time to donate or get involved in political money issues.
Money is the common denominator that political candidates need to successfully launch and win elections. One author states, “Endorsing candidates by providing monetary support to particular candidates is an important means of influencing their election and securing their attention when it comes to issues
From the Department of Nursing, Mayo Clinic,
Rochester, Minn (Dr Twedell); and the Federal
Relations and Policy, American Organization of
Nurse Executives, Washington, DC (Ms Webb).
Corresponding author: Diane Twedell, DNP, RN, CNAA,
Education and Professional Development Division, Department of Nursing, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 55905
of importance to professional groups.”1 Monetary donations via political action committees
(PACs) are a major vehicle to influence politics and policy makers.
BACKGROUND AND HISTORY
A PAC is a “group that is formed by an industry or an issue-oriented organization to raise and contribute money to the campaign of political candidates who likely can advance their issue.”2 A PAC collects funds from a group of individuals concerned with particular issues and provides funding to candidates to advance their association’s agenda.
PACs have been active in the election landscape since 1944. The first PAC was formed when the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) wanted to assist President Franklin
Delano Roosevelt in his reelection bid. Legislation, specifically, the Smith Connally Act of 1943, prevented the labor union from contributing funds to federal candidates. The CIO asked individual union members to voluntarily contribute funds directly to the Roosevelt campaign.3 This action was extremely successful, Roosevelt was reelected, and thus, a
NURSING ADMINISTRATION QUARTERLY/OCTOBER–DECEMBER 2007
new mechanism for funding campaigns was developed. A recognized need for legislation to ban corporate contributions for political purposes also was occurring in the early to mid-1900s.
Several laws were passed related to campaign reform. Three specific areas of change included: requiring public disclosure of campaign finances, regulation of spending in campaigns for federal office, and limiting the influence of wealthy individuals and special interests on federal elections.4
The Federal Election Campaign Act of
1971 was put in place to increase disclosure of contributions for federal campaigns and amended in 1974 to place limits on campaign contributions.5 Essentially, this Act prohibits labor organizations and corporations from