Hospital association, tea party group spend heavily on lobbying during Medicaid fight


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RICHMOND, Virginia — The trade group representing Virginia hospitals and the conservative advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity, spent heavily on lobbying during their fight over whether to expand Medicaid eligibility, newly filed reports show.

The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, the leading pro-Medicaid expansion advocate during this year's legislative session, said it incurred more than $400,000 in lobbying expenses from May 2013 to April 2014.

Americans for Prosperity, a group that opposes Medicaid expansion and has ties to conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, reported spending more than $470,000 on lobbying during the same period.

The spending is way up for both groups compared to a year earlier. The hospital association reported spending $93,000 and Americans for Prosperity spent $29,000 from 2012 to 2013, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonprofit that tracks money in politics.

The biggest new cost for both groups this year was for advertising. The hospital association reported spending more than $270,000 on communications. The group's senior vice president, Katherine Webb, said it went for statewide radio and social media advertisements.

Americans for Prosperity, which has run radio and television ads attacking Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe for supporting Medicaid expansion, reported spending $225,000 on communications.

Proposed Medicaid expansion was the dominate issue of this year's legislative session. Under the Affordable Care Act states can decide whether to expand Medicaid to able-bodied low income adults, something about half the states have done so far.

The state's hospitals have pushed aggressively for Medicaid expansion, saying it is needed to help cover the cost of the care already being provided to the state's poor.

Most Republican lawmakers and Americans for Prosperity oppose expansion, saying they don't believe the federal government will pay for most of the program and they think the state can't afford a large scale increase of an entitlement program.

Republicans successfully blocked Medicaid expansion during the legislative session and a months-long standoff over the state budget that ended in June. McAuliffe has made expanding federally funded healthcare to the poor a top priority and has vowed to work around the General Assembly.

Seeking to woo GOP lawmakers, the hospital association hired three former high-level aides to former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell. The group reported spending about $100,000 on compensation for in-house and contract lobbyists.

Americans for Prosperity reported spending about $120,000 on compensation for its staff, which knocked on doors, made phone calls and held rallies as part of its effort to block Medicaid expansion. The group also spent $103,000 for "personal living and travel expenses" for its state director, Sean Lansing.

Lobbying disclosure forms had to be filed with the state by July 1. Other filings of note include:

—$42,000 spent by the power company Dominion on entertainment, which includes taking several lawmakers to Washington Redskins games as well as sending two Republican delegates, Virginia Beach's Glenn Davis and Tazewell County's Will Morefield, to attend the Masters golf tournament this spring in Georgia. Dominion has traditionally been one of the biggest donors and gift givers to state lawmakers.

—$74,405 spent on lobbying by the Embassy of Japan, which hired several lobbyists from the firm McGuireWoods in an unsuccessful bid to block a bill requiring new textbooks in Virginia to note that the Sea of Japan is also known as the East Sea. The bill passed after intense grassroots lobbying by Virginia's Korean-American community.

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