The new class of Democratic representatives entered Congress on an independent streak, disavowing corporate PACs and championing grassroots support. Many kept to their words, but major health corporations and associated donors still made their influence apparent. In fact, every Democratic Freshman representative took some form of money from health care.
Together, this freshmen class of Democratic representatives took more than $465,000 in individual contributions from “Big Health”, or the biggest names in insurance and pharmaceutical companies. And more broadly, they received more than $6.5 million from individual contributors from the health industry, according to Tarbell’s analysis.
It’s hard to pull distinct conclusions because there are only a small number of candidates and a whole slew of factors that could influence a donor’s decision to give. On average, the candidates who publicly declared their opposition to “Medicare for All” had nearly double the donations from Big Health contributors — receiving an average $10,880, compared to the average Medicare For All supporter receiving $5,796. They generally received a higher number of donations from the big companies too, often at a larger average size.
The biggest recipient from health insurance and Big Pharma was Minnesota’s third district representative Dean Phillips. The representative, who also serves as president of his family’s company, Phillips Distilling, received $40,886 in large contributions, with notable donations over $1,000 from the chief government officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield Minnesota and executives from UnitedHealth Group. Other major recipients include Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), Tom Malinowski (NJ-7) and Antonio Delgado (NY-19), who received major donations from top employees at Allergan, Johnson & Johnson, Regeneron, UnitedHealth Group and Amgen, among others. Tarbell published its database of donations from major pharmaceutical and insurance companies, as well as a list of compiled PAC contributions, so you can explore the data yourself.
One of the most prolific individual donors to the first term members was Reinier Beeuwkes, chief science officer and president of Ischemix, a pharmaceutical company specializing in neurological conditions and taking in an estimated $8 million in revenue, comparatively humble for Big Pharma. Together, he and his wife, retired psychiatric nurse Nancy Beeuwkes, distributed $241,300 among representatives, and Reinier and other Ischemix employees were consistently among the health industry’s top contributors to the freshmen class.
You can explore the sums that freshmen Democrats received from the health industry in the table below.
Health Industry Support for First-Term Democrat Representatives
Health Industry Payouts to Freshmen House Democrats
|Representative||District||Total Donations From Key Pharma/Insurance Companies||Total Computed Health Industry Donations||Supports M4A?||Took No Corporate PAC Money Pledge?||Total Donations From Health PACs (Association + Corporate)|
|COX, TERRANCE JOHN (TJ)||CA-21||$-||$78,848||N||Y||$9,500|
|CRAIG, ANGELA DAWN||MN-2||$12,274||$149,972||N||N||$24,000|
|GARCIA, SYLVIA R||TX-29||$-||$31,440||Y||N||$27,000|
|HILL, KATHERINE LAUREN||CA-25||$14,905||$167,242||Y||Y||$5,500|
|HORSFORD, STEVEN ALEXZANDER||NV-4||$5,700||$91,038||U||N||$20,000|
|MCBATH, LUCIA KAY MS.||GA-6||$7,000||$53,428||N||Y||0|
|MORELLE, JOSEPH D||NY-25||$6,650||$31,410||N||N||$64,375|
|ROUDA, HARLEY E JR||CA-48||$15,950||$155,607||Y||N||$7,500|
|SCANLON, MARY GAY||PA-5||$6,950||$21,275||Y||N||$7,500|
|SCHRIER, KIM DR.||WA-8||$11,315||$442,653||Y||Y||$59,000|
|TORRES SMALL, XOCHITL||NM-2||$6,102||$92,978||U||Y||$14,000|
|UNDERWOOD, LAUREN A||IL-14||$6,302||$107,665||N||N||$15,000|
|VAN DREW, JEFF||NJ-2||$2,700||$40,391||N||N||$102,000|
In this investigation, Tarbell’s intention was to identify the first-term Democrats who received campaign contributions from employees of the top health insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies identified in FEC data. Given the nature of raw FEC data, which is entered by individual donors and therefore hard to standardize, there may be omissions in this method.
These calculations are based off the bulk “Individual Contribution” data available on the Federal Election Commission website for the 2017-2018 election cycle. Contributions with invalid dates were not used.
We broke down the data in two ways:
“Notable Contributions From Health Industry” refer to donations from individuals who are employed by the nation’s biggest health care companies. This meant the editor went through varying spellings of donors’ employers and flagged each one that she identified as a top pharma or insurance company. We used a list of the biggest health and pharmaceutical companies, which you can see here.
“Total Health Sector Contributions” are is the computed amount visible in the graphic tiles for each candidate. These figures are based off designations created by OpenSecrets in their previous data sets. We matched the unstandardized employer listings in past OpenSecrets individual contribution data to the most up-to-date data releases from FEC. We only used employers that appeared under the general category called “Health,” though there may be other categories related. This also used individuals who marked their profession as “physician”, “doctor” or “medic” in the “Occupation” section on FEC filings.
Both of these breakdowns required some cleaning and string matching in the open source software R. You can see that code here. Because we used string matching and analysis to get these figures, there may be some errors or omissions. If you see one, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org so Danielle can confirm and correct the error.
Still have a question about this methodology? Please send your thoughts to email@example.com.