Anatomy of a Successful Political Fundraiser

Private practice physical therapists from Oregon and Washington gathered in Portland to meet with U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, the new chair of the Senate Finance Committee.

By Clem Eischen, PT, and Diana Godwin, Esq
August 8, 2014

On May 31, more than 35 private practice physical therapists from Oregon and Washington gathered at a café in downtown Portland, Oregon, to meet and have brunch with U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D. Oregon), the new chair of the Senate Finance Committee.

The agenda included a discussion by the Senator of the issues and challenges ahead as Congress works to revise health care financing, particularly proposed Medicare reforms. The Senate Finance Committee has jurisdiction over changes in the Medicare laws and will decide on the reforms for which we have been advocating in recent years.

The Senator was gracious in soliciting and listening to the concerns of our private practice members, as well as responding to questions. After the more “formal” part of the event, Senator Wyden sat down with us to share a buffet brunch and later stayed for a round of picture taking—lots of arms around shoulders. Jerome Connolly, PPS lobbyist, and Mandy Frohlich, APTA lobbyist, also attended the event.

How did the chair of one of the most powerful committees in the U.S. Senate come to spend almost two hours breaking bread and discussing issues with private practice physical therapists on a Saturday morning?

In March, shortly after Wyden was appointed as chair of Senate Finance, Diana and I flew to Washington, D.C., to meet with him and other key staff in his Senate offices. Tom DiAngelis, PPS president, Jerome Connolly, and Mandy Frohlich accompanied us. Although meetings with the new chairman were in high demand, we were able to meet with him because we both had long-standing relationships with him. Clem—now retired—had a private practice in Portland for many years and hosted meetings at his clinic with Wyden and other physical therapists, and he had supported Wyden in his early campaigns for the House and then the Senate. Clem worked on a committee on national health insurance for Wyden and arranged for Wyden to be a guest speaker at a Sports Medicine Seminar, which Clem co-sponsored when the U.S. Olympic Dream Team played its first exhibition game in Portland in 1992. Diana went to law school with Wyden in the 1970s and had hosted a fundraiser for him in her home during his last Senate race.

A couple of weeks before our scheduled March meeting with the Senator, we started kicking around the idea of hosting a fundraiser for the Senator when he was back here in Oregon during a Congressional break. In late February, Diana contacted Senator Wyden’s campaign staff to discuss potential dates, logistics, a fundraising target to which we would commit, and Federal Election rules. We quickly formed a small task force to coordinate our efforts: Connolly, Mike Matlack, and Frohlich, DiAngelis. We would be the local team on the ground.

The Wyden campaign had a date available in early April when the Senator would be home. We realized this was too soon to get everything organized—particularly since we committed to raise a minimum of $20,000 at the event—so we went back to the campaign staff and settled on the date of May 31.

The next step was to design the invitation that the APTA PAC would “snail mail” to all members of the PAC and email to all PPS members. Diana would also send the invitation to the clinics that she represents in Oregon and Washington. Before we could complete the invitation, we had to locate a venue. We needed a good location, one that had a private meeting space and could serve a nice brunch at a reasonable price. (Practical tip: While you will want to do something nice, you also want to minimize costs so that more of the money raised can go to the legislator or candidate.)

The Wyden campaign had a line on a space they had used for previous fundraisers, but unfortunately, after booking, the venue backed out and we had to start over. Diana phoned and emailed 10 or so other possible venues before locating the magic combination of location, menu, and price. Once we booked the new venue, we could finalize the invitation. (Practical tip: Start working on the invite as soon as possible. The campaign staff has to approve the wording of the invitation to ensure it includes caveats regarding federal rules on contributions (no corporate donations—personal donations only; the correct information on how to make donations online; where to mail checks and to whom the checks should be paid. Plus, we wanted to include a photo of the Senator, so we had to get that from the campaign staff, all of which takes time.)

Once the invitation was ready, we crafted an accompanying letter to inform our PPS members across the country about how important this event was to our national objectives and urge them to contribute toward our fundraising goal. That done, the task force kept track of donations from around the country, answered questions, and thanked the PPS members who sent emails telling us they had donated. Diana stayed in touch with the campaign staff to discuss details and monitor the contributions that were coming in by check or online to the campaign website.

(Practical Tip: Always maintain good communication with the local campaign staff and respond promptly to whatever they need. They will be delivering the legislator to your event and will be keeping him or her apprised of your efforts and progress. Also, do the organizing work yourself rather than rely on the campaign staff. On the morning of our event, one of the campaign staffers who accompanied the Senator told Diana that they had never before participated in a fundraiser where they did not have to do any work—and they specifically made sure the Senator knew that we had handled everything.)

Less than two weeks away from the date of the event, we found ourselves short of our fundraising goal, so the team got back to work. Tom DiAngelis sent out another plea for support to PPS members, Clem made personal phone calls to his key contacts around the country, and Diana urged her Oregon and Washington physical therapists to come through. We also enlisted the help of a private practice business group headquartered in California and they sent out the word to all their contacts. (Practical Tip: Having a small, hard-working team dedicated to hosting a successful event is key.)

Diana kept track of the physical therapists who had responded that they would be attending in person and had her staff prepare name tags the day before and up to the last minute for late responders. Three days before the event, we checked in with the café to let them know the final head count and finalize the menu. Diana arranged for a no-host bar to be available for those who wanted libations stronger than coffee or juice. (Practical Tip: Alcohol is typically welcomed by attendees at these events.) The day before the event, the campaign staff requested short bios of the hosts and the issues that the physical therapists would like to discuss so the Senator would be fully prepared. Diana scrambled to complete and email these to the staff.

By the morning of the event, all was in place and everyone had a good time. All the wonderful private practice physical therapists who attended and those who contributed money made the event a tremendous success—we raised over $45,000! According to his staff, Senator Wyden was thoroughly impressed.

Thank you all.

Mark Anderson

APTA Federal Government Affairs Leadership Award recipient.

Interview by Kelly Sanders, PT, DPT, OCS, ATC
August 8, 2014

This year, the APTA Federal Government Affairs Leadership Award was given to PPS member Mark Anderson. Established in 2013, this annual award was created to recognize the efforts and achievements of an APTA member in advancing the association’s federal government affairs objectives. We caught up with Mark to discuss his contributions in this area of advocacy and find out what piqued his interest in this important area of APTA service.

Q: Would you share a bit about your background and the roles you have played in the government affairs arena over the years?

A: My interest in government affairs issues started as Utah chapter president. Multiple state issues were brewing, and I tried to take a proactive approach in dealing with issues before they heated up. Rodney Miyasaki, an earlier chapter president, set a great example [by] getting direct access without any opposition. I began going to Washington, D.C., in the early 1990s and made my first Capitol Hill visits in 1994.

Q: What was the catalyst that got you involved in government affairs? Was it a particular issue, person, etc?

A: I learned quickly that Hill staff “made the world go round.” Establishing relationships and providing Congressional staff with information and assistance went a long way. One day, I got a call from a Representative’s chief of staff saying the member was bringing Newt Gingrich (then Speaker of the House) to town. She asked if I could rally our troops to get some people to attend. I quickly reached out to a local physical therapy school and our chapter, and at the end of the day, we had a sizable crowd present for the event. Time and time again, providing needed data and being consistent in messaging has paid off. Over the past 15 years, I have had the opportunity to be an APTA key contact for Orrin Hatch. During this time, I have been able to get to know and work with his health policy advisors. We have established friendships and spent time discussing issues in Washington as well as in our state. I have become very comfortable contacting Senator Hatch’s office whenever we are facing time sensitive issues that affect our profession. I am confident that we provide them with accurate information and information that is focused on our patients.

Q: What issues are you particularly passionate about right now? What do you think are the most important issues facing physical therapy right now?

A: Each year our lobbying efforts focus on three primary issues. Trying to work on more issues seems to take away focus. Depending on the year, we have focused on the therapy cap, direct access, referral for profit, and student loan repayment assistance. During the past 10 years, my number one legislative issue has been the therapy cap and associated limitations. Due to the length of time we have spent on this issue at the Hill, it is very unusual for any of our Congressional contacts to not have a solid understanding of the therapy cap. If you were to ask me what issue I am the most passionate about and the one I love to educate and discuss, it would be referral for profit and the in-office ancillary exceptions. In the past two years we have been able to discuss this issue as a potential way to pay for costs associated with fixing the cap. Congress always wants to know how much a particular issue will cost. It is very nice to report a savings with fixing referral for profit and a budget neutral for student loan assistance.

One of the most enjoyable offshoots of my legislative work has been taking students and other therapists to visit Congress. Planning a visit and assigning speaking points is exciting. Having a new attendee’s experience be a positive experience and watching their confidence build as the day unfolds is exhilarating. Over the years, Kim Cohee (Utah’s APTA key contact) and I have been able to share this experience with a significant number of therapists and students.

In the many years I have been walking through the halls of Congress, I have never felt the urgency of our messages more than I do today. Congress is polarized. Blame is plentiful. If we do not maintain a steady effort in reminding policy makers what is at stake, our patients and our profession will lose all that has been gained.

Kelly Sanders, PT, DPT, OCS, ATC, is a member of the Impact editorial board. She can be reached at

Narrow Networks


Narrow networks return with promise of cost control—and backlash.

By Jerome Connolly, PT, CAE
July 7, 2014

Provider networks are anything but a new phenomenon in the insurance industry. Payers have been engaging preferred providers for decades dating back to the managed care era. Consumers have had to factor in provider availability and coverage when selecting a health plan if they were involved in such a selection process. This process of consumer choice has been magnified by the adoption of the individual mandate included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Likewise, once the initial choice is made, patients must make decisions at the time a health care need emerges—do I stay in network and pay less or choose to incur higher out-of-pocket expenses by accessing an out-of-network provider? Often, this is when they discover their provider of choice is not in the insurer’s network.

Congress Does it Again


Instead of finding real solutions, the House and Senate once again offer a temporary fix.

By Jerome Connolly, PT, CAE
June 6, 2014

While it is old news now, congressional action March 31 was greeted with a sigh of relief as another 24 percent cut to Medicare payment rates was averted, again temporarily. Legislation passed only hours before a self-imposed congressional deadline maintains the current Medicare reimbursement rate through March 31, 2015. The legislation also included an extension of the Medicare therapy cap exceptions process, which means that our patients—the ones who need our services the most—are not saddled with the arbitrary annual per beneficiary Medicare cap. The approximate $20 billion cost of this temporary fix was paid for through a combination of gimmicks, including adding another year (2025) to the sequester provisions used to reach a budget agreement in December of last year.

Improving Performance


Can value-based purchasing in health care live up to the promise?

By Jerome Connolly, PT, CAE
May 5, 2014

On March 4, 2014, the RAND Corporation released a new report concluding that after a decade of experimentation with reforms that give health providers financial incentives to improve performance—so-called value-based purchasing—relatively little is known about how to best execute such strategies or to judge their success.

The report—authored by Cheryl L. Damberg, Melony E. Sorbero, Susan L. Lovejoy, Grant Martsolf, Laura Raaen, and Daniel Mandel—which was designed to assess the state of knowledge about value-based purchasing programs in health care, found that evidence thus far is mixed about whether using such payment schemes can help improve quality and lower costs.1

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