On the surface, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton looks extremely unpopular with insurance professionals. The industry, which historically leans right in both voting and political donation patterns, has been outspoken in its opposition to many of her positions – even calling her public health insurance option proposal a “roadblock to reform.”
Yet certain data raises questions on the industry’s real position.
According to information collected by the Center for Responsive Politics, which runs political fundraising tracker OpenSecrets.org, Clinton is the recipient of by far the largest amount of industry dollars. As of July 2016, the former Secretary of State has received more than $1.2 million from insurance companies and lobbying groups, outstripping runner-up Ted Cruz by nearly 100% and Republican nominee Donald Trump by more than $1 million.
The figures are hardly an anomaly for the industry. In 2008, the insurance sector – which includes health, auto, life, and property/casualty companies – donated $1.26 million to Clinton’s campaign for president, making her the third-highest recipient of cash from the industry that year. She also received $397,110 for her 2006 re-election to the Senate.
Without data showing just who is making these donations, it’s difficult to speculate on reasons for the industry’s support. Just last month, after all, several prominent insurance trade groups spoke out against Clinton’s renewed calls for a government-funded public health insurance option.
“A government-run plan would underpay doctors and hospitals rather than driving real reforms that bring down costs and improve quality,” America’s Health Insurance Plans said at the time. “It’s time we focus instead on broad-based reforms that will ensure the affordability and sustainability of our healthcare system.”
Health insurance agents have also been outspoken in their opposition to a public option, saying it would “further squeeze commission” and hinder their ability to assist consumers with coverage choice – potentially even forcing them out of the market.
Yet industry organizations continue to fund Clinton’s campaign, alongside donors from industries including securities and investments ($41 million), lawyers and law firms ($23 million) and pharmaceuticals ($3.8 million).
By contrast, Trump – while counting insurance among his top 10 largest industry donors – has received just $111,645 from the sector.
The gap may be explained in part by differing approaches in campaign fundraising by the two camps. Trump has financed much of his campaign himself, including $13 million of the $19.4 million raised in 2015. Large corporate donors have also mostly stayed away from Trump, and 34% of his campaign funding is coming from individual donations.
It is here that prominent insurance professionals may be acting as individuals. Pamela Newman, president and chief executive officer of the Newman Team at Aon Risk Services, donated $25,000 to the Make America Great Again single-candidate super PAC supporting Trump, for example.
Outside of the presidential race, the insurance industry is solidly conservative in its political sending efforts. The industry’s top contributor – Starr Companies – spent more than $15 million on conservative groups from 2015 to 2016, and the Republican Party currently outstrips the Democratic Party $19.7 million to $9.6 million in donations in 2016. In fact, the only time the industry gave more heavily to Democrats since OpenSecrets began tracking contributions was in 1990, when the party captured $7.3 million in insurance spending compared to $7.1 million given to Republicans.
Independent agents are also among the sector’s most right-leaning groups. More than 70% of the $1.9 million in contributions from the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America and the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers – the group’s two biggest spenders – went to Republican candidates and the Republican Party.
By company, the top spenders in insurance from 2015 through the present are:
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- Starr Companies: $15,062,700
- New York Life Insurance: $1,570,192
- Blue Cross/Blue Shield: $1,545,471
- AFLAC Inc.: $1,215,224
- National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors: $1,191,000
- Metlife Inc.: $1,061,109
- Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America: $1,005,975
- Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers: $872,948
- USAA: $788,615
- Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance: $754,029
- Prudential Financial: $726,907
- Liberty Mutual: $701,528
- Northwestern Mutual: $690,694
- TigerRisk Partners: $674,200
- American Council of Life Insurers: $610,376
- American Financial Group: $534,536
- State Farm: $511,125
- Association for Advanced Life Underwriting: $490,000
- Zurich Financial Services: $477,785
- Nationwide: $476,801
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