From the Journals

Physician PAC dollars support candidates against gun regulation

View on the News

Dear PACs: We’re in our lane

Though national membership organizations have finally taken a lead in advocating for firearm safety, this study from Schuur et al. illustrates the disconnect between physician PACs and the physicians themselves, according to Rebecca M. Cunningham, MD, Marc A. Zimmerman, PhD, and Patrick M. Carter, MD, of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

The study comes in the wake of the NRA admonishing physicians to “stay in their lane,” which was met by a very vocal response via social and mass media. “Health care professionals demonstrated that, contrary to the NRA position, they have an undeniably central role and authority in addressing this public health problem through the direct care that they provide to patients and their families, prevention-based research, and advocacy for policy-level changes that make patients safer,” they wrote.

The coauthors noted the parallels to the American Medical Association previously calling for tobacco regulation while financially supporting politicians who felt otherwise. It’s a comparison that is meant as a cautionary tale; as more focus is placed on this particular issue, “medical PACs must consider the increasing physician voice on the need to address firearm-associated morbidity and mortality in the policy arena to reduce their experience with this issue in emergency bays, operating rooms, and clinics.”

Rebecca M. Cunningham, MD, Marc A. Zimmerman, PhD, and Patrick M. Carter, MD, are with the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. They reported having no conflicts of interest. Their comments are adapted from an accompanying editorial (JAMA Netw Open. 2019 Feb 22. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.7823 ).



Of the 29 Senate incumbents running for reelection who voted on S.A. 4750, an amendment that would have expanded background checks, those who voted against it (n = 21) received $500,000 more in contributions than did those who voted for it (n = 8).

The findings were similar with H.R. 1217, a bill in the House of Representatives to expand background checks; the PACs contributed $2,878,675 more to candidates who did not cosponsor it (n = 227) than to cosponsors (n = 166).

In regard to ratings from the NRA-PVF, the 25 PACs gave $5.6 million to candidates with an A rating and $4.1 million to candidates with a rating other than A.

But the trend was somewhat different when it came to the 2015 call to action on firearm-related injury and death, endorsed by several physician groups. Among the nine PACs with affiliated organizations that had endorsed the call to action, eight contributed to more candidates who did not support firearm safety policies. But after adjustment for political factors, those nine PACs had a lower likelihood of donating to NRA-PVF A-rated candidates, compared with nonendorsing PACs (odds ratio, 0.76; 95% confidence interval, 0.58-0.99; P = .04).

“Although endorsement of firearm safety policies may reflect a small difference in political giving, it does not mean that a physicians’ organization has elevated firearm policy to the level of a contribution criteria for the PAC,” the researchers wrote.

The researchers noted that it is “unlikely that physician organization–affiliated PACs contribute to candidates because they are opposed to firearm regulation.” Rather, they said, these PACs consider a number of factors, including a candidates’ stance on malpractice reform, physician payment policies, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as well as their chance of winning.

The authors reported having no conflicts of interest.

SOURCE: Schuur JD et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2019 Feb 22. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.7831.

Next Article: