Arizona campaign against health care reform cost $1.9 million - East Valley Tribune: Politics

Arizona campaign against health care reform cost $1.9 million

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Posted: Thursday, December 16, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 9:07 pm, Fri Dec 17, 2010.

Foes of "Obama-care'' spent more than $1.9 million to put Arizona on record in opposition to the federal law.

Final finance reports for the 2010 campaign show the lion's share of that -- close to $1.5 million -- came from the U.S. Health Freedom Coalition, established by a Phoenix doctor to both educate the public on health care and provide cash for Proposition 106.

Where that money came from, though, is not public.

Arizona law requires disclosure only of who contributed directly to the campaign finance committee, in this case Arizonans for Health Care Freedom. Where business interests and associations who donate get their cash, however, need not be disclosed.

"It is essentially individuals from inside Arizona and around the country,'' said Eric Novack, the doctor who headed the pro-106 campaign. Who they are, Novack would not disclose.

"I'm going to respect their desire,'' he said.

What Novack would say is that no money came from the pharmaceutical, hospital or insurance industry, groups that have some financial interest in whether the federal law gets to take effect.

The measure, placed on the ballot last year by the Legislature, inserts a provision into the Arizona Constitution overriding any law, rule or regulation that requires individuals or employers to participate in any particular health care system.

It also prohibits any fine or penalty on anyone or any company for deciding to purchase health care directly. Doctors and health care providers would remain free to accept those funds and provide those services.

Finally, it would overrule anything that prohibits the sale of private health insurance in Arizona.

It was aimed directly at the plan Congress subsequently enacted requiring individuals to obtain health coverage or pay a fine.

Novack said while federal law generally trumps state statutes or constitutional provisions, this measure does have a legal purpose.

He noted that a federal judge in Virginia earlier this week ruled that Congress does not have the authority to mandate the purchase of insurance. And that challenge, Novack pointed out, was brought by the attorney general of Virginia, the first state to adopt a measure similar to the one Arizona voters approved last month.

Foes of the measure managed to collect and spend only about $6,000.

The campaign for Proposition 106 is not the only one where the original source of funding is not obvious.

Of the nearly $800,000 spent on the bid to legalize medical marijuana, close to $469,000 came from the national Marijuana Policy Project which advocates legalizing the drug. Officials of that organization have repeatedly rebuffed requests for information on its donors.

Proposition 203 allows anyone with a doctor's recommendation to obtain up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks. It also requires the Arizona Department of Health Services to issue licenses for about 125 dispensaries.

But the law gives health officials until early next year to come up with the rules.

The pro-203 campaign also had one other large donor: a Colorado firm listed as Heavy T and Little D contributed $100,000. Records from the Colorado Secretary of State's office produced no specifics on the kind of business it runs; no phone number or web site was available for the company.

Anti-203 efforts spent less than $20,000.

The other big expense was the campaign to kill a legislative proposal to eliminate the First Things First early childhood and education program which voters had approved in 2006 and divert the 80-cent-a-pack tax on cigarettes which funded it to instead go to other state programs.

Out of the $930,000 spent, the Salt River Pima- Maricopa Indian Community gave $125,000, with $123,605 from Children's Action Alliance.

Backers of Proposition 302 spent $35,361.

Various supporters of Proposition 109 to provide constitutional protections for hunting and fishing spent close to a combined $300,000 in the unsuccessful bid to have it adopted by voters. The largest source of cash was the National Rifle Association. Opponents, led by the Humane Society of the United States, spent about $440,000.

More than $130,000 was spent pushing Proposition 107. It constitutionally forbids affirmative action programs and government preferences in education, employment and contracting. Total listed expenses against the successful ballot measure were about $30,000.

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