How to maximize your voice in government…

I spent the previous week in Washington, DC for the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) Board of Directors meeting.

In addition to the important discussions regarding the direction of the Academy, we headed to Capitol Hill for legislative meetings one afternoon. I met with legislative directors in the office of Senator Kirk and Congressman Davis to discuss bills and issues affecting primary care, medical education, and our patients and communities.

Walking around our nation’s capital always brings me joy. From strolling past the White House to getting lost in the tunnels under the halls of Congress and Congressional offices, each visit reminds me of my only paid job outside of health care.

Back in 2000, I graduated from college with my Bachelors in Political Science and, not yet ready to start medical school, I wanted to work full-time on a campaign. Having volunteered on campaigns in Illinois during college, I landed a job in the great state of Maine. I jumped on the chance and drove half way across the country to run the fundraising for the challenger to a long-term incumbent U.S. Senator.

My employer was President of the State Senate at the time. As one of only three full-time staff, I was thrust in each and every aspect of the campaign, from staffing field events and parades in small town Maine to big time fundraisers.

But the vast majority of my time was spent raising funds from small donors. And in a campaign that had a snowball’s chance of winning, we felt as if we were squeezing blood from a stone.

Throughout the process, I learned just how important donating to campaigns truly is. Beyond giving voice to candidates you support to finance everything from media to voter outreach, it gives access. The latter is so important to make sure candidates and elected officials hear about the issues from your perspective.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about buying influence. But instead, this access to candidates and the contributions themselves help elect candidates who already support your political agenda, push them to work towards that political agenda, and educate those candidates on the margins about the important issues at hand.

The small donations matter. The $25, $100, $250 donations are still the lifeblood of most campaigns. But pooling resources with those like-minded or in your same profession can truly make a difference. Political Action Committees (PACs) are a way to make ones financial voice in the process even stronger.

Working on that Senate race nearly 13 years ago, a challenger race without great prospects for success, raising money was hard, to say the least. We did decently within the state of Maine amongst ardent party supporters. And every big check over $1000 that came from the few PACs willing to give voice to our candidate was appreciated. In that race, most of these came from labor unions, and I quickly learned the multitude of acronyms that come with that territory!

Each time I deposited one of these labor union PAC checks, I thought what access they would have to the political agenda if our candidate won his election. And what access they, and other groups well-organized into PACs, have throughout state houses, the federal Congress, and executive branches around our nation.

They make sure their message is heard.

For those of us not able to make large contributions to campaigns around the country, but still want to be heard, donate to a PAC!

For example, I donate each year to my profession’s FamMedPAC. Founded in 2005 to increase the voice of Family Physicians in our federal government, it has contributed to almost 300 candidates on both sides of the political aisle.

If you’re a family physician and member of the AAFP, donate to the FamMedPAC!

We have a lot of work to do. If every member of the AAFP donated just $100 to the FamMedPAC, we would have the largest medical PAC in our nation, and the message of primary care would be heard loud and clear!

If you’re a teacher, nurse, union member, so on and so forth, donate to your professional PAC, and have your message heard as well!

Unless you’re a trial lawyer.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s