The American College of Cardiology (ACC) is revisiting donations by its political action committee (PAC) to lawmakers after the deadly riot at the United States Capitol.
“We are saddened and distressed by the egregious events that transpired last week at the Capitol during the vote to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential Election and we strongly condemn the violence that has undermined one of our most sacred principles, the peaceful transfer of power,” the ACC wrote in a statement provided to theheart.org | Medscape Cardiology.
“In light of the recent events, HeartPAC leaders are meeting to discuss the implications of those events and reassess the College’s approach moving forward.”
A Center for Responsive Politics/OpenSecrets.org report detailing political donations prompted criticism on Twitter for ACC PAC donations to the campaigns of Congressmen Mo Brooks (R-AL), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Devin Nunes (R-CA), and Steve Scalise (R-LA).
https://twitter.com/AzeemRathore_/status/1350113867905585152?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1350113867905585152%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpublish.twitter.com%2F%3Fquery%3Dhttps3A2F2Ftwitter.com2FAzeemRathore_2Fstatus2F1350113867905585152widget%3DTweet Patrice Wendling
The donations so angered cardiologist David L. Brown, MD, professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, that he pitched his ACC membership renewal form in the trash.
— Clinically Conservative Cardiologist (@DavidLBrownMD) January 15, 2021
“That was the last straw, the fact that they donate to these insurrectionists,” Brown told theheart.org | Medscape Cardiology. “I didn’t have the time to go through the entire list of the insurrectionists they donate to but these are the four most obvious ones. They’ve been Trump-enablers of the first degree for all 4 years of his presidency.”
While some noted that the donations were made before the four lawmakers could be called “insurrectionists,” Brown questioned the motivation behind the PAC donations.
“I’m not sure what the ACC is doing with this sort of political donation, what they think they’re achieving, and why they think it’s okay to contribute to these kinds of people, even if there is some kind of tangentially positive endgame for cardiology down the road,” he said.
Although responses were overwhelmingly positive, many took to private messaging to express their support, observed Brown.
“I’ve had more direct messages on Twitter on the past weekend than I have in 4 years of being on Twitter,” he said. “It’s amazing people are afraid to express an opinion that runs counter to the ACC. I mean the organization is turning into something like the NRA. People are afraid to go against it. I’m not sure what kind of power people think the ACC holds over them but it kind of blew me away that this is controversial at all.”
By Center for Responsive Politics/OpenSecrets.org calculations, ACC HeartPAC doled out $5000 to Scalise, $4500 to Nunes, $2500 to McCarthy, and $2000 to Brooks in 2020. Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) received $10,000.
Scalise and McCarthy also received individual contributions from ACC members, employees, or their immediate family members, bringing their contribution totals to $12,500 and $7500, respectively.
According ACC’s own figures provided to Medscape Cardiology, ACC HeartPAC distributed $12,500 to Scalise, $4500 to Nunes, $12,500 to McCarthy, $2000 to Brooks, and $20,000 to Pelosi through direct campaign and PAC contributions.
ACC HeartPAC also donated $30,000 each to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics/OpenSecret.org.
It estimates that total contributions reached $708,273 in 2020, of which 54% went to Democrats and the rest to Republicans. This compares with a high of $1,048,193 in 2010.
In its statement, the ACC wrote: “ACC HeartPAC has always operated in a nonpartisan manner, working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to advance quality cardiovascular care for our patients. Our mission, which is inextricably linked and central to the mission of the ACC, is not political; our nonpartisan approach is essential to what we do,” the ACC statement noted.
ACC president Athena Poppas, MD, was not available for comment at press time but released a statement January 19 on the importance of “unity and healing” after the attack on the Capitol.
An ACC spokesperson pointed out that political contributions are made only through ACC HeartPac and not by the ACC or the ACC Foundation. The ACC HeartPAC executive committee is expected to meet this Thursday.
The American Heart Association does not make political contributions of any kind to any elected official, candidate, or political party nor does it have a PAC, Steve Weiss, vice president of media advocacy, told theheart.org | Medscape Cardiology. “We are strictly nonpartisan in our work in support of evidence-based public policies that promote longer, healthier lives.”
For its part, the American Hospital Association sent a clear signal in a January 14 special bulletin, announcing that “for individuals who voted against accepting the results of the Electoral College, we will immediately suspend political contributions.”
“Hospitals and health systems have a special role to play as community leaders, healers and caregivers for our patients and the wider communities we serve. As we said last week, now is the time for our country to come together and begin the healing process,” the bulletin stated.
The big question going forward is whether medical associations and mainstream corporations will permanently cut off PAC contributions or only temporarily pause political giving to signal moral outrage over the insurrection.