The American Psychiatric Association Political Action Committee
(APAPAC) enjoyed tremendous success in the recent election cycle,
with 112 of the 119 candidates (94 percent) it supported winning their
elections last November 2.
Over the course of the 2003-2004 election cycle, APAPAC
contributed some $365,000 to congressional candidates representing 43 states
and to other party-affiliated political committees. APAPAC hosted
events for 65 members of Congress and arranged for APA members to meet with 71
members of Congress to deliver contributions and strengthen the crucial local
relationship between constituents and their elected representatives.
APAPAC is governed by a Board of Directors made up of 13 APA
members and is chaired by John Wernert, M.D. Among other duties, it is the PAC
board's job to decide which candidates to support for Congress. The PAC board
considers many factors when selecting those candidates, and it makes every
effort to give priority to candidates who clearly champion APA's legislative
agenda while also standing with our physician colleagues in the rest of
medicine on major issues that affect all physicians.
Of course, we hope that the full range of APA's priority issues is
supported by every member of Congress and candidate for elective office to
whom we give, but this cannot always be the case. In those situations,
APAPAC contributions give APA an excellent opportunity to reach out
to and educate members of Congress who have supported physicians on general
issues but who have not previously supported psychiatry-specific issues.
The APAPAC board aims to represent all APA members and strongly
believes that to advocate for our patients and our profession properly, we
need to inform and educate all candidates for Congress. To achieve that, we
need access to these lawmakers. This educational function can yield tangible
results. For example, APAPAC activity allowed me to be the sole
featured speaker at a breakfast of the Blue Dog Coalition—a
policy-oriented group of moderate and conservative Democrats in the House of
Representatives who have rarely backed APA's legislative priorities because of
perceived conflicts with their strong pro-business views. The hour-long
dialogue focused entirely on issues of concern to APA members and their
patients and helped allay misconceptions of some of these lawmakers about
psychiatry. This led several of these Blue Dogs to take a second look at bills
to mandate parity and end Medicare's discriminatory copayment requirement (see
story on page 1
regarding the Senate version of the bill) and resulted in several new
co-sponsors for these bills.
During its first few years, the APAPAC board has worked hard to
ensure that APAPAC is politically balanced. I believe it has done a
very respectable job of supporting our friends while acknowledging the reality
of our current political landscape. With a bipartisan eye, the PAC
concentrates its activity on House and Senate leaders, members on key health
committees in both bodies, and members who have demonstrated pro-physician and
pro-psychiatry positions on issues.
The APAPAC Board of Directors is also reaching out to APA's early
career psychiatrists (ECPs) and members-in-training (MITs) to encourage them
to be more involved with APA's advocacy efforts. As a start, the
APAPAC board was recently expanded to include both an ECP and an MIT
representative. APA members need to understand why advocacy is important, how
effective APAPAC is, and, most importantly, that they need to get
active and join the effort.
The PAC is continuing to grow and will increase its activities in 2005.
Through the first five months of the year, APAPAC has received more
than $137,000 from some 1,020 APA members and staff—by far the PAC's
best start to a year. Its board members have been busy reaching out to work
with and educate members of Congress as well, having contributed $167,000 to
85 candidates for Congress (representing 37 states) and other party-affiliated
political committees in 2005. APAPAC has also hosted events for 38
members of Congress and arranged for APA members to meet with 15 lawmakers to
deliver contributions. In most cases, APA joins with medical-specialty and
health-industry associations in co-hosting events for these individuals, thus
presenting an important, unified face on matters with which we are concerned
as a physician community.
APAPACinformation is available online on the
APA Web site at<www.psych.org/members/apapac/index.cfm>.▪