AVMA PAC collects $400,000 for campaigns


WASHINGTON-Roughly 4.5 percent of American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) members donated a total $400,000 to the group's Political Action Committee (PAC), which contributes to campaigns of federal congressional and senatorial candidates.

WASHINGTON—Roughly 4.5 percent of American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) members donated a total $400,000 to the group's Political Action Committee (PAC), which contributes to campaigns of federal congressional and senatorial candidates.

Recipients of the PAC's maximum $5,000 contribution include, among others, Rep. Charles Pickering, R-Miss., who sponsored the Minor Use Minor Species Animal Health Act of 2004; Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.; Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid, D-Nev.; and Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Veterinarian Sens. John Ensign, R-Nev., and Wayne Allard, R-Colo., are not up for re-election this year.

Although the majority of veterinarians appear to be conservative small-business owners, AVMA PAC contributions fall on both sides of the aisle, PAC/Grassroots Coordinator Tim Foltyn says.

"It's not a one-party thing; it's about the people who support veterinary medicine," he says. "The PAC doesn't buy votes; it ensures influence, accessibility and impact. It creates relationships that members and staff can have with congressional offices, and it really does help advance the profession's agenda."

Following the funds

Not every recipient receives the PAC's $5,000 maximum contribution, allowing the AVMA to delegate donations to more candidates. PAC leaders say they're supporting roughly 100 federal candidates in open-seat races culminating Nov. 2.

PAC dollars will fuel neither President Bush's bid for a second term nor Sen. John Kerry's challenge to take the high office.

"Support for a presidential campaign doesn't go very far," Foltyn says. "We still can only give $5,000 per candidate, and we try to contribute most to candidates we work with on a regular basis and have relationships with."

But that doesn't stop candidates from soliciting AVMA PAC funds. Foltyn says he receives hundreds of calls from campaigns clamoring for support each election year.

"We recognize that we can't please everyone," he says. "Certainly we have members call and request PAC campaign support."

Marketing for money

To increase campaign giving, AVMA PAC leaders are employing grassroots efforts of their own, unveiling a $1 million membership fundraising goal for 2008.

AVMA members can contribute up to $5,000 to the PAC through their dues invoice. PAC officials are working with a marketing firm to promote the necessity of political influence. Foltyn says he'd like to see the number of donating members reach 10 percent.

"Certainly our legislative success is the main thing we're going to highlight," he says. "Our works with small-business issues in Congress and for other parts of the profession, such as our work to block the horse slaughter prevention bill, are great accomplishments."

In addition, money from the PAC focuses on small-business issues, which affect 80 percent of AVMA members, explains Dr. Michael Chaddock, director of the AVMA's Governmental Relations Division (GRD) in Washington.

"The advantage of PACs is that individual members can pool their resources for common political goals," he says "It's how you leverage your resources. The majority of the issues AVMA is going after on Capitol Hill are small-business issues that hit right at home for our membership."

At the helm

The responsibility of allocating PAC dollars falls on a handful of AVMA leaders. The roster includes PAC Treasurer Dr. Richard Wilkes, of St. Petersburg, Fla.; Dr. John De Jong, of Chestnut Hill, Mass.; Dr. George Bishop, of Carmel, Calif.; Vice Chair Dr. Dean A. Rice, of Phoenix; and Dr. Vern Otte, of Leawood, Kan. Members can be elected to three two-year terms and sit for a total six years on the PAC Policy Board.

Armed with information gathered by the AVMA's GRD, the group assesses candidates using following criteria:

  • Voting record or position on issues important to the profession;

  • Demonstrated leadership on key committees of importance to veterinarians;

  • Dedication to improving the relationship between the profession and government;

  • Potential for legislative leadership;

  • Candidates suggested by AVMA PAC members; and

  • The impact a contribution would have on the campaign.

"The PAC is how AVMA, on behalf of members, flexes its political muscle," Chaddock says. "It's really how the system works."

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