AHCA state chapter under attack for $330k political donation

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A large Arkansas provider association found itself the subject of an ethics complaint this week over donations it made to a state ballot question committee.

The Arkansas Health Care Association has given $330,000 to the Health Care Access for Arkansans, a committee aiming to get a proposed constitutional amendment on the state's ballots in November that would limit attorneys to receiving one-third of the total damages in civil suits. The proposal would also place a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering.

Rachel Davis, executive director of AHCA, told McKnight's the group has long supported the proposed amendment for the benefits it would bring to the state's medical community and AHCA members.

Matt Campbell, attorney and blogger for the Blue Hog Report, filed a complaint with the Arkansas Ethics Commission on Monday. He claimed AHCA itself counts as a ballot committee, and must disclose its financial records and donation sources.

State regulations say that any group that is not a political action committee, but puts 2% of its annual revenue toward a such a group, counts as a committee, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

AHCA contributed $250,000 to Health Care Access for Arkansas in May, followed by another $80,000 in June. The group's most recent financial data for 2014 shows $2.4 million in revenue, $2.3 million in expenditures and $1.5 million in assets, the Democrat-Gazette reported.

"By every available metric, then, the $330,000 given to Health Care Access for Arkansans by [the association] in 2016 makes AHCA a ballot-question committee," Campbell argued in his complaint.

AHCA has not been contacted by the Arkansas Ethics Commission or Campbell in regard to the complaint, according to Davis.

“Contributions from the Arkansas Health Care Association made to the Health Care Access for Arkansans ballot initiative came from dues already collected from our members,” Davis said. “The AHCA Board of Directors voted unanimously to use these existing funds to support the initiative.”

In a post on the Blue Hog Report, Campbell pushed the Ethics Commission to speed up proceedings of his complaint to avoid “running out the clock before transparency can be obtained.”