August 27, 2009
PAC pits school against school for donations
Competition designed to spur fundraising surge
By: Jennifer Fiala
For The VIN News Service
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is embarking on
year two of a campaign that breeds friendly competition between
veterinary medical programs and pits state associations against one
another, in the name of raising more donations for the group’s
political action committee (PAC).
Between July 1, 2009 and June
30, 2010, all donations received by the PAC will be attributed to the
donor’s home state and graduate school of record. The rankings are
updated online on a monthly basis.
Four winners each will
receive a $1,000 scholarship to their respective student scholarship
programs. Last year's winners included Auburn University, for aggregate
contributions, and University of Missouri, for per capita
contributions. California came out on top for aggregate contributions
per state and the District of Columbia led the nation in terms of per
capita donations to the AVMA PAC.
The PAC received roughly
$269,000 between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009, yet leaders with
AVMA’s Governmental Relations Division (GRD) say they are still
determining what role, if any, the new campaign played in bringing in
those dollars. That kind of tally will require some historic
Still, officials say that in terms of
contributions, the political action committee is coming off its best
year ever, with $312,595 contributed during the 2008 calendar year
compared to $298,382 received in 2007. That totals nearly $611,000 for
the 110th Congress election cycle, with contributions from a record 4.4
percent of AVMA's membership.
Traditionally, approximately 3
percent of AVMA members contribute to the PAC annually. Breaching the
$600,000 mark also is significant, considering contributions during the
2005-2006 109th Congress election cycle totaled $467,342. About
$421,500 in PAC donations came in during the 2003-2004 108th Congress
(The GRD reports and evaluates the AVMA PAC's
financial health in a variety of ways. While the Federal Election
Commission requires PACs to report financial statements according to
calendar years, a common practice inside the Capital Beltway is to
measure a PAC's size based on two-year congressional election cycles.
Finally, AVMA internally evaluates its PAC's fiscal year based on a
July 1 through June 30 time period, largely because AVMA's annual July
conventions feature PAC events that highlight major donors, and that
system allows for the latest contributions to be calculated.)
GRD Director Dr. Mark Lutschaunig suspects a lot of last year's success had to do with the high-profile presidential election.
calls AVMA’s PAC a “critical tool” that his office uses in Washington,
to build relationships with members of Congress and their staffs.
relationships are really important when we want to move things like the
National Veterinary Medical Services Act,” Lutschaunig explains. “To be
able to go in and talk to them about these issues is invaluable, and
the PAC plays a very significant role in allowing us to do this.”
critics who might suggest PAC dollars amount to bribery, Lutschaunig
counters: “The PAC doesn’t buy us votes. I’ve had times when we’ve
given PAC donations, and someone hasn’t voted in our favor. But at
least we were able to get in there to tell our story.
“You hear a lot of griping about money in politics, but the reality is that’s the way our system is set up right now,” he adds.
doesn’t sit well with some Veterinary Information Network members who
in the past have expressed their distaste for the idea that political
influence carries a price tag. Others have concerns that AVMA’s
political goals do not mesh with their own.
the PAC is about combining the resources of all AVMA-member
veterinarians. While the general membership isn’t polled on issues,
donation decisions aren’t made in secret. Lutschaunig explains that a
six-member PAC board, which also includes a non-voting student
representative and an AVMA Executive Board liaison, determines how PAC
funds are expended.
Three of the six voting PAC board members
are appointed by the AVMA House Advisory Committee and the remaining
three are appointed by Executive Board members.
AVMA member can be heard. Lutschaunig invites those with suggestions
about where and how PAC dollars should be spent to contact the GRD
office and speak with him directly.
“We do take feedback from our members and the state VMAs,” he says.
while Lutschaunig hears criticism about PAC dollars going to recipients
in both political parties, he adds that AVMA is a politically neutral
“I think you can't look at it as Republican and
Democrat. Our job is to push the AVMA agenda, and that's non-partisan.
We're going to contribute to both sides of the aisle,” he says.
VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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