Public Campaign

December 20, 2002
Rick Bielke

Who's on Frist?

Senate Majority Leader Hopeful Bill Frist:
Prescription for Health Care Campaign Contributors' Policy Paybacks

Washington, DC -- Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN), a frontrunner for the position of Senate Majority leader, is deeply beholden to the health care interests thanks to the millions in campaign contributions he has taken from the industry, charged the nonpartisan campaign finance reform group Public Campaign today.

Frist has collected more than $2 million in campaign money from the health care industry in his campaigns for Congress, making him the top recipient of health campaign dollars in the new Senate, and millions more as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. During his career in the Senate, he has consistently championed the interests of the health care industry when its bottom-line interests conflicted with public health.

"Bill Frist isn't the senator from the State of Tennessee - he's the senator from the State of Health Care Industry Influence. He's gotten more than $2 million from the health care sector, giving him the dubious distinction of raising more cash from health care interests than 98 percent of his colleagues," said Nick Nyhart, executive director of Public Campaign.

"In turn, Frist has done many a favor for his health care contributors, to the detriment of public health. He has voted to weaken patients' ability to hold their HMOs accountable for withholding needed medical care. He's voted to subsidize the drug industry with taxpayer dollars rather than expand Medicare to help seniors get affordable prescription drugs. He's championed the interests of tobacco companies over our nation's kids, and he's opposed legislation to help insure that our food is safe of harmful bacteria."

"If Frist succeeds in becoming the Senate Majority Leader, keep a careful watch on your vital signs. Our eroding health care system will only get worse."

Follow the Frist Health Care Campaign-Money-and-Deeds Trail:

  • Frist collected $2,085,583 from the health care sector during his Senate career, making him the top recipient of special interest health care cash in the new Senate. He serves on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in the Senate, where members work out the details of health care policy.
  • With $123,750, he's the number four recipient in the Senate for campaign cash from HMOs. In 2001 he voted against legislation that would have improved patients' access to care and allowed them to hold their HMOs accountable for failure to provide adequate treatment. [Senate Roll Call Vote No. 220, 107th Congress, 1st Session, June 29, 2001.] In 1999, he voted against an amendment that would have guaranteed patients access to specialists' care. [Senate Roll Call Vote No. 205, 106th Congress, 1st Session, July 14, 1999.]
  • He's collected $265,023 from the pharmaceutical/health products industry, making him the seventh top recipient in the Senate. He voted in favor of legislation that would have given tax subsidies to HMOs and insurance companies to offer prescription drug coverage to senior citizens, rather than provide it under the Medicare program. [Senate Roll Call Vote No. 187, 107th Congress, 2nd Session, July 23, 2002.]
  • " He's gotten $41,574 from the tobacco industry. In 2001, he was the lead sponsor of legislation on tobacco regulation (S. 190) that the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids called "worse than no legislation at all," and said would "result in business as usual for the tobacco industry and do nothing to reduce the death and disease caused by tobacco." [U.S. Newswire, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, June 14, 2001.]
  • " Frist has taken $130,204 from food processing/sales, livestock, and poultry and eggs industries. In return, in 2001, he voted to quash legislation that would have strengthened the USDA's authority to crack down on processing plants that violate standards for bacteria and virus infestation of meat and poultry. [Senate Roll Call Vote No. 314, 107th Congress, 1st Session, October 25, 2001.]


Source for all campaign finance figures is the Center for Responsive Politics,

Public Campaign is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to sweeping reform that aims to reduce dramatically the influence of special interest money and big contributors on America's elections. Public Campaign is laying the foundation for reform by working with citizens organizations and other groups around the country that are fighting for comprehensive change. Together, we are building a network that includes participants from many states, creating a powerful national force for federal reform.

Public Campaign
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