“If history is a guide, the latex-gloved cavalry can fill campaign coffers as well as they fill cavities” — National Journal, 2014, on ADPAC
National Journal might as well add “and perform root canals” to the above assessment, because AAE members have been a part of the ADA’s PAC for quite some time now.
The American Dental Political Action Committee (ADPAC) is a unified voice of more than 159,000 dentists helping to ensure that the ability to serve patients is not hindered.
ADPAC uses its financial contributions to help elect congressional candidates, regardless of party affiliation, who understand the importance of dentistry and oral health. The group also provides educational opportunities for dentists interested in running for public office to help increase the dental voice in Congress.
The AAE was the first specialty organization to garner a seat on this board back in 2009.
Dr. Mark B. Desrosiers, a private practicing endodontist in Connecticut, was first to serve as the AAE’s board representative. The role of specialty representatives was defined during his first term, and subsequently the American Association of Periodontology and AGD also gained seats on the ADPAC board.
“Any specialty that does not have its own political action committee and agrees to work through ADPAC can ask to be part of the ADPAC board,” Dr. Desrosiers said. “ADPAC serves two main purposes. One: to raise money that is given to candidates that support our issues, which are brought before Congress; and two: to help us grow grassroots involvement among dentists and their spouses. ADPAC is quite effective in its first goal, maintaining its place as the second-largest health care PAC and enjoying a very good reputation among our elected officials and their staffs.”
Dr. Susan L. Wood, who practices in Phoenix and serves as a Foundation for Endodontics trustee, and AAE District I Director Dr. Ali Behnia, an endodontist in Maryland, also have represented the AAE on the ADPAC board.
“It is a very important alliance that we have been able to establish,” Dr. Behnia said. “It is through this relationship that AAE conveys its support or opposition to proposed legislation that will impact our members and our profession.”
Dr. Behnia became involved with ADPAC through serving on the Practice Affairs Committee.
“I was the second representative after Dr. Desrosiers,” he said. “I owe a great deal of gratitude to Dr. William Powell (chair of the PAC at the time) for his guidance and support.”
Endodontics rarely has advocacy issues that differ from the issues dentistry faces on the whole.
“It has been a natural fit for us to be part of the ADPAC board,” Dr. Desrosiers said. “As a member of the ADPAC board, we do have a responsibility to work with our AAE membership to educate them as to the importance of the advocacy that is being done on our behalf and to step up and contribute to ADPAC.”
Fortunately, he said, a good number of AAE members do contribute to ADPAC.
“While donating $100 to a U.S. representative or senator might not make a big splash, contributing that same amount to ADPAC and then having ADPAC make a $5,000 or $10,000 contribution to those same elected officials makes an impression,” Dr. Desrosiers said. “The leverage enjoyed by our working together through ADPAC helps to ensure that the decisions our elected officials make will help rather than hurt us.”
In 2016, ADPAC supported the reelection campaigns of three dentists for the U.S. House of Representatives: U.S. Reps. Dr. Mike Simpson (Idaho), Dr. Paul Gosar (Ariz.) and Dr. Brian Babin, (Texas). In addition, ADPAC supported two dentists who ran for Congress. Dr. Drew Ferguson was victorious in a runoff election for the Republican nomination to the open seat in Georgia’s third Congressional District. In August 2016, Dr. Fred Costello lost a Republican primary battle in Florida’s sixth Congressional district against the incumbent.
AAE member Dr. Dennis J. Zent ran unopposed in his primary race for reelection to his seat in the Indiana House of Representatives. While ADPAC does not support state races financially, Dr. Zent, a former co-chair of ADPAC, credited his participation in ADPAC for providing much of his political education and inspiration to run for public office.
A notable AAE-ADPAC milestone occurred earlier this year on March 28, when hundreds of dentists and student dentists took time away from practice and studies to advocate for their profession as part of the inaugural ADA Dentist and Student Lobby Day.
Dr. Wood attended Lobby Day as the AAE’s representative to the ADPAC board and also as a member of the Arizona delegation. Lobby Day focused on several issues of importance to dentistry, including antitrust reform, student loan relief and health care reform — specifically regarding access to care and Medicaid, including preserving those programs and benefits that protect oral health services for children and to allow states to preserve or expand adult dental benefits, assuring transparency of dental plan benefits to support consumer choice, and preserving or expanding use of pre-tax dollars to help purchase coverage
“I urge every AAE member to participate in ADA advocacy efforts in D.C. by participating in ADA Engage and the Legislative Action Network, and by supporting ADPAC,” Dr. Wood wrote in a Communique article earlier this year. “The ADA does the heavy lifting in Washington for all of dentistry and these are easy ways to support those efforts. Too often, we think of advocacy as something done for us as opposed to something done by us.”
“When I hear our members’ concerns about some of the legislative changes that have occurred in recent times or are in the pipeline, my response is, do you know/support ADPAC? The reality is, all the statutory and regulatory changes that impact our memberships emanate from the various state legislatures, and it is through ADPAC that we gain access to those legislatures to voice our support or concerns,” Dr. Behnia said.