Is your doc good for a $25,000 political contribution?

    Last week I got quite a reaction to a piece about the remarkable political contributions doctors at the Rothman Institute, an orthopedics practice whose hub is at Jefferson University Hospital, gave to Mitt Romney’s campaign for president.

    In all, 68 Rothman employees gave $811,2000 to the Romney Victory fund last month. That was more than employees of any other firm in the nation contributed to the fund in the latest reporting period, according to an analysis by the Washington Post.

    One complaint I got was that my post didn’t link to primary sources. I’ll correct that below, and share the names of the docs who contributed. But first, some context.

    The $811,000 the Rothman folks gave doesn’t make them the biggest Romney contributors of the race. Romney Victory isn’t the Romney candidate committee or the super PAC, which gets contributions running in the millions. Romney Victory is a “joint fundraising committee,” a hybrid that raises large, though not astronomical contributions and splits them between the candidate and party committees.

    And the Rothman folks aren’t the biggest contributors to Romney Victory for the whole campaign, just this past three-month reporting period.

    Still, it’s a lotta dough for one medical practice.

    Rothman gets an x-ray

    It took until 3 o’clock Monday for Rothman to respond to my inquiries about the contributions, and that was an official “no comment.” One person I spoke to within the health community said it’s unusual to see such a hard partisan tilt in the activity of a group like this, and the Rothman folks may be a little embarrassed about the publicity.

    Indeed, the Rothman doctors might have expected that their generosity wouldn’t be noticed.

    The $811,000 didn’t come from a company political committee. It was all given in individual contributions, buried among the hundreds in the Romney Victory report. But significant donors are required to disclose their occupations and employers, so it’s not that hard to download the report, sort the contributions by employer, and zowie, you find quite a Rothman cluster. That’s what T.W. Farnam of the Washington Post did.

    A lot of commenters have speculated on why the Rothman docs were so anxious to see Romney elected – distaste for the Affordable Care Act, maybe, or affection for Romney’s tax plans. But the fact that there are so many sizable contributions on the same day suggests somebody did a good job of encouraging the Rothman clan to give, and give generously.

    I’m told the prime mover was Dr. Todd Albert, spine surgeon, Rothman’s president and chair of the department of orthopedic surgery at Jefferson. According to the website CampaignMoney.com, Albert has contributed to several other Republican candidates and committees in the past, but also gave $2,300 to Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2008.

    Through Rothman’s spokesman, Albert declined to talk to me.

    You can look it up

    So, some of you wanted links to primary sources. Here’s the Washington Post piece on the Rothman contributions. I didn’t link to it in my Friday story to avoid confusion — the Post story said there were 65 doctors who gave $751,000. The reporter,  Farnam, found a few more contributions the following day, and I used the updated figures in my story.

    The original source of the material is the Romney Victory fund’s October filing. You can find it at the Federal Election Commission’s website here. And you can find the list of Rothman docs and their contributions here.

    One final point. When the Supreme Court majority ruled in Citizens United that unlimited contributions for independent expenditures were okay, they also endorsed the idea of vigorous disclosure of the sources of money.

    The Rothman Institute’s special attachment to Romney emerged because filing requirements and mandatory electronic filing made searches of the data relatively easy. Pennsylvania needs to start requiring electronic filing, too.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.