PHOENIX -- Republican legislators who have received backlash from fellow conservatives for approving the state's expansion of Medicaid easily outraised their colleagues and rivals last year, according to the latest figures reported by the Arizona Capitol Times.
The newspaper reports some Republican incumbent lawmakers generated thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the health-care industry. Campaign finance reports show most GOP lawmakers who backed the expansion collected nearly $1 million combined. Some started off this year with more than $850,000 in their campaign coffers.
The Arizona Medical Association, Blue Cross-Blue Shield and the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association are among the health-care-related organizations listed as contributors, according to the financial reports. Vanguard Health Management gave as much as $2,000 each to some of the lawmakers.
District-level GOP leadership has criticized these legislators for their support of Gov. Jan Brewer's decision to expand eligibility to the Arizona Health Care Containment Cost System (AHCCCS.) The pro-expansion group got another boost when a Maricopa County Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging Brewer's plan, according to a ruling released Saturday. The lawsuit was filed by members of the GOP.
Judge Katherine Cooper agreed with Brewer that the lawmakers challenging the law don't have the right to sue. Furthermore, Cooper said their argument, that a hospital assessment included in House Bill 2010 that passed in June was a tax that required a supermajority vote of the Legislature, was incorrect.
Brewer spokesman Andrew Wilder called the court ruling ``a huge victory.''
``Judge Cooper's ruling is thoughtful and legally sound,'' Wilder said in a statement. ``As a result, the state can move forward with implementing the Governor's Medicaid Restoration Plan without further distraction of litigation, thereby restoring cost-effective health care to tens of thousands of Arizonans through AHCCCS, and honoring the will of voters.''
Chris Herstam, a lobbyist whose clients include the Arizona State Board of Nursing and Banner Health, said the fundraising figures show the anti-expansion attitude is primarily within tea party groups.
``Their supporters are clearly sending a message to the tea party that these pragmatic Republicans deserve to be re-elected and will fight hard in their campaigns,'' Herstam said.
Christine Bauserman, a tea party activist who led an effort in 2013 to put the Medicaid-expansion law as a referendum on this year's ballot, said the high amount of funds raised wouldn't intimidate candidates and conservatives from continuing their efforts.
``The army to walk and knock on doors exists on our side,'' Bauserman said. ``The people want a voice. They are demanding representation.''
Information from: Arizona Capitol Times, http://www.arizonacapitoltimes.com