By Dan Post
Illustration by Holly Randall
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Politicians are sleazy, but you already knew that. Take Tom DeLay, for example. DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee has been accused of soliciting fundraising dollars for direct legislative action. Several TRMPAC staffers have been indicted for using corporate money to help elect Republican Texas state congressional candidates and then giving those corporations explicit benefits in state legislation. DeLay denies direct involvement, claiming he had only an advisory role with the committee. On the national level, DeLay has been accused of taking illegal trips using foreign lobbyist's money.
Now, DeLay's questionable tactics have reached as far west as the UA - giving proof that even states with clean elections are susceptible to national political fundraising gimmicks and sleaziness.
Five years ago under Tom DeLay's lead, the National Republican Congressional Committee, a political action committee whose purpose it is to elect Republicans to the national congress, began handing out the Physician of the Year Award.
Last week, two UA doctors were recognized in the Arizona Daily Wildcat for receiving the National Physician of the Year Award from the NRCC. The story, however, neglected to mention the truth behind the Physician of the Year Award. It's a truth we should have guessed considering that Tom DeLay is the architect of the award.
In simple terms, this award is a farce.
In November 2004, according to the political donations databafecinfo.com, the NRCC received a $500 donation from Dr. Ronald Weinstein, the pathology department chair at the UA. In the same month, Dr. Anna Graham, also of the pathology department, wrote a $500 check to the NRCC.
Several months later, both received a notice from the NRCC that they had been chosen as Physicians of the Year; the only conditions for receiving the award were that the doctors attend an NRCC tax and medical malpractice seminar in Washington, D.C., and give a further donation to the committee of at least $1,250.
This sounds pretty fishy and raises a lot of questions. Are Republican Party donors the only doctors who received the award? Is the award even a valid indicator of true medical service? Is this award given to just a few distinguished professionals, or is it a widespread fundraising gimmick? Were Dr. Weinstein and Dr. Graham complicit in the fundraising scheme?
According to fecinfo.com, Dr. Weinstein gave $1,250, and Dr. Graham gave $2,500 in February after learning about the award. Since November, the two have combined to give a total of $4,750 to the NRCC. If you read the Wildcat article last week, you might think they received their awards for the groundbreaking work they have completed. Dr. Weinstein, after all, invented robotic pathology, and Dr. Graham is published in cardiovascular transplantation technology research. But by looking at the amount of cash the two have donated to the NRCC, one might guess that their established medical credentials did not earn them these accolades. Even NRCC spokesman Carl Forti is willing to acknowledge that medical service has no bearing on the recipients of the Physician of the Year Award. When asked whether any of the doctors' record of medical service were used in the selection of award recipients, Forti explained that "We do not (use it)," and that doctors are chosen based on the amount they have previously given to the Republican Party; it's not their medical service that's important but their service to the party.
In principle, there is nothing really illegal about the employment of gimmicks to raise political campaign money. Both major parties are guilty of using these fundraising gimmicks. Last year, the Democrats offered signed copies of Hillary Clinton's book in exchange for a monthly donation to the Democratic National Committee. However, unlike most other fundraising tactics employed by both sides of the political spectrum, the NRCC gimmick is unethical and may even border on fraudulent.
The problem lies in the certificate of the award. Doctors who have been of "commendable service" to the Republican Party are being recognized as good doctors. They can hang a plaque in their office claiming they are a Physician of the Year; this marketing scheme may noticeably increase doctors' business and reputation. However, they have done nothing to deserve this recognition. They have only given a considerable sum to a political campaign group and in return are receiving a bogus benefit. This sounds a lot like Tom DeLay's other schemes, in which he used his political power to help out corporations and individuals who gave him money. In this case, the deception hits close to home.
Dan Post is an anthropology and ecology senior. He can be reached at email@example.com.