Seeking regulatory approval for a controversial merger proposal, health insurer Anthem recently pumped $460,000 into groups supporting the election campaigns of governors and state attorneys general. The money was disclosed in second-quarter campaign finance reports reviewed by International Business Times.
Those federal filings, which were released by the Internal Revenue Service late Friday, show Anthem gave $210,000 to the Republican Governors Association, $200,000 to the Democratic Governors Association in the last three months. In many states, the insurance commissioners reviewing the proposed Anthem-Cigna mega-merger are appointed by governors. The cash to state officials is on top of $50,000 Anthem gave to a Democratic-affiliated political group called “Unity Convention 2016.”
The money to the DGA is particularly notable because the group is headed by Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, whose insurance commissioner, Katharine Wade, runs the agency leading the national multistate review of the deal. Anthem money flowed to the DGA in June amid an ethics probe prompted by IBT’s investigative series documenting Wade’s personal and familial ties to Cigna.
Malloy has refused to force Wade to recuse herself from the merger review, at a time when Anthem and Cigna have increased their donations to the DGA, which backed his campaigns and which he has chaired since late 2015. In all, the DGA has raised a total of $1.1 million from Anthem and Cigna since Malloy began the process of nominating Wade to the insurance post in 2015. That sum is 37 percent more than the group raised in the entire 2014 election cycle, and almost half of the total campaign contributions the companies have given the group in the last decade.
The $200,000 donation from Anthem — which made it among the DGA’s top contributors during the quarter — came in late June, just after the group concluded donor-related events in Nantucket and Greenwich. In the lead up to the latter event, the DGA promised major donors special access to governors, depending on how much money they were giving. A flyer for the event, obtained by IBT from the office of West Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, shows “gold sponsor” donors giving $50,000 and “platinum sponsor” donors giving $100,000 were promised “participation in policy discussions” and “preferred seating in the policy discussion sessions” of the event.
In June, a spokesperson for Anthem told IBT that no one from the company or from Cigna was planning to attend the Nantucket event. A spokesperson for Cigna, Joe Mondy, told IBT that “one of Cigna's retired veteran employees spoke to the governors about veteran hiring practices at the Greenwich event.”
In an emailed statement to IBT, a spokesperson for the DGA said: "The DGA and the RGA both received contributions of the same amount from Anthem in June. The DGA is proud of our record-setting first half of 2016 with donations from individuals, labor unions and business leaders alike.”
In addition to the donations to both parties’ governors’ groups, Anthem also gave $50,000 to the Democratic Attorneys General Association in the second quarter of 2016. That brings Anthem and Cigna’s total donations to the group to $150,000 for the 2016 election cycle. That is double what they gave the group in the previous election cycle, but half of what the companies have given the Republican Attorneys General Association in the same time period.
"Anthem has been a long-standing member with a consistent history, and Cigna, while a newer member, has limited its participation at events since the merger announcement," said DAGA executive director Sean Rankin in a statement emailed to IBT that noted Anthem previously gave under a different corporate affiliate. "Further, neither company contributes at the Presidential Level of membership. As our organization is growing and our membership base is expanding, we do see a significant number of companies that have moved to a greater giving-level recently, but Anthem and Cigna are not among them."
Among the Democratic attorneys general reviewing the merger is Connecticut’s George Jepsen, who has said he has been an “an active participant” in DAGA, including in its fundraising. Days before Anthem’s latest DAGA donation, Jepsen was elected to serve as the head of the influential National Association of Attorneys General.
“It is both legal and entirely appropriate for DAGA to accept contributions from individuals, law firms, and corporate entities,” he told IBT in an email that noted the group had not financially backed his own campaigns. “As always, I believe individual attorneys general should, when soliciting contributions, exercise appropriate discretion according to their own conscience. Speaking personally, I have had no political or DAGA-related discussions of any sort with either Anthem or Cigna since the merger was announced approximately a year ago.”
Earlier this month, Jepsen said the proposed Cigna-Anthem merger “ raises serious competitive concerns.” In his email, he expanded on that, saying he is concerned “ that the merger would provide no discernible benefit to consumers while significantly altering the landscape for the provision of healthcare in the future. For about a year, my office has been engaged in, and devoted significant resources to, an antitrust investigation in coordination with the Department of Justice and other states looking at the merger, and I anticipate announcing a decision on whether to challenge the merger in court in the near future.”
Story updated at 8:09pm ET