Wisconsin

Dentists Lobby Hard for Special Deal Backed by GOP

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Campaign finance records show that ahead of a vote on a special interest favor sought by some Wisconsin dentists, the political arm of the Wisconsin Dental Association busily channeled campaign contributions to lawmakers. The Wisconsin Dental Association is the prime driving force behind legislation that would unilaterally rewrite private contracts in a way that free-market advocates say is an assault on free enterprise. The legislation could also likely cause some Wisconsin residents to pay more for dental care.

The political conduit associated with the Wisconsin Dental Association, the WDA Direct Giver Program, allows member dentists to send money to political candidates they favor or hope will back their policy priorities. Records show that in 2012, which saw both a recall election and regularly scheduled election, the WDA’s political arm gave over $119,000 to state candidates.

In 2013, the WDA continued to send money to officeholders and candidates. Two sizeable contributions are noteworthy because of their proximity to legislative action.

According to a filing with the Government Accountability Board, on March 22, the WDA conduit reportedly sent $1,515 to Rep. John Nygren’s (R) campaign, and $1,350 to Sen. Frank Lasee’s (R) campaign. Days later on March 29, both Nygren and Lasee co-sponsored the introduction of AB 109. That bill is the one that would use state power to interfere in private contracts between dentists and insurance companies.

Lasee also received at least $3,195 from the Dental Association conduit in 2012.

Legislation similar to AB 109 was defeated last session, when one of the lead legislative sponsors was the otherwise conservative Rep. Evan Wynn (R), who was defeated in November 2012. This session the legislation has been apparently fast-tracked with a number of normally conservative Republicans joining with Democrats and moderate Republicans to support it.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce analyzed AB 109 and declared, “This legislation would erode the freedom of contract in our state by proposing to legislatively define the terms under which businesses must contract with one another.”

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