Medical group gave over $150k to GOP lawmakers who dismiss virus science

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The American Medical Association has warned against reopening the country without following facts and science while donating to lawmakers who do just that.

The American Medical Association's political action committee has given more than $150,000 over the past decade to lawmakers who have pushed recently for a premature end to pandemic safety measures.

The group, which calls itself "the nation's largest physician organization," released a statement in April from its president, Dr. Patrice A. Harris, urging states to "use science" and "data" in determinations about when and how to reopen their economies.

"The American Medical Association (AMA) believes decisions about public health should be made based on science, evidence and data. Scientists and public health experts continue to urge physical distancing as the most effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 until we have a vaccine or an effective treatment," Harris wrote. "Reducing or eliminating physical distancing policies prematurely — and without robust monitoring and testing in place — would likely result in a resurgence of COVID-19 that would inflict widespread illness and still more death."

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She added that Americans "should be confident that decisions are being made with public health as the top consideration."

But many Republican lawmakers have implicitly or explicitly prioritized the economy over public health.

Some of the most vocal advocates for speedy reopening, regardless of the the AMA's warnings and a new surge in coronavirus cases across the country, have previously received contributions from AMPAC — the group's political action committee. The PAC's stated mission is to back those who make "physicians and patients a top priority" and have "proven to be [friends] of medicine."

AMPAC officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

Since the 2010 campaign cycle, AMPAC has given a total of at least $157,200 to nine lawmakers who have been especially vocal against stay-at-home rules and other safety measures.

Here's who's on that list.

Kevin McCarthy

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has received at least $35,000 from AMPAC.

He has been a leading opponent of efforts to temporarily allow members of Congress to work remotely during the pandemic, arguing that if emergency personnel and food service workers can show up for work, lawmakers should not need to work from home.

Last month, McCarthy (R-CA) also argued against business closures to curb the latest coronavirus spikes. "We've learned from this," he told CNBC. "I do not believe a shutdown complete of the economy is a smart thing to happen overall for our health or other."

This week, he demanded that schools and childcare centers reopen, urging "liability protections" from "COVID-19 related lawsuits" against them.

McCarthy's office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Kevin Brady

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) has received at least $34,000 from AMPAC over the years.

In May, he praised his state's rushed reopening, telling Fox News Radio that its governor had "opened a big can of common sense on how you reopen these businesses."

Brady argued this week against any new closures, telling CNBC that wearing masks and social distancing — rather than closing the economy again — were the best ways to combat the resulting spikes in coronavirus infections.

In that interview he suggested misleadingly that "re-opening states" were actually safer than "lockdown states."

"Interwoven under all this is, 'Did states reopen too quickly? Should they go back to locking down their economies?'" he said. "My answer is, 'No they didn't.' We expected, I think everyone did, these flare ups."

California has seen new cases roughly double compared to a month ago and an 88% increase in hospitalizations.

Brady's office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Steve Scalise

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise has received at least $30,000 from AMPAC.

Since April, he has pushed for a quick reopening despite the pandemic, telling Fox Business, "We gotta get the economy open again."

"America needs to safely get back to work!" Scalise (R-LA) said at a May briefing, dismissing those who have said "we must remain closed or be prepared to close again, as if it were some tradeoff between health and jobs."

"Our health depends on it," he said at the time. "The ability of mayors to govern — to fix the streets, to pay police, firefighters, teachers, ambulance drivers — depends on America getting back open again. Our upward mobility — and the promise that no matter where you begin, you can achieve your dreams in America — depends on America reopening that opportunity to all who seek it."

He added, "Our personal relationships, with family, friends, with God, depend on us getting back to a free and mobile life."

In recent days, Louisiana has seen an its largest daily new case spike since April. Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday that the state has seen three weeks of "going in the wrong direction."

Scalise's office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Devin Nunes

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) has received at least $17,000 from AMPAC.

In early April, he demanded the economy reopen within 14 days, despite the ongoing risks.

"I will tell you this: If we don't start to get people back to work in this country over the next week to two weeks, I don't believe we can wait until, you know, the end of April," he told Fox News. "I just think, I just don't know of any economy that's ever survived where you unplug the entire economy and expect things to go back and be normal."

In the same interview, he complained that California had shut down schools, calling the cancellation of the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year "way overkill."

Nunes also drew national attention for urging people to go to pubs during the early days of the pandemic in March. He later claimed he had only been referring to "drive-thru" pubs.

Nunes' office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Pat Toomey

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) has received at least $15,000 from AMPAC.

"Now is the time to begin the discussion on how we slowly, gradually reopen our economy, because we are doing enormous damage every week that goes by where people are not allowed to work," he told a local TV station in April. "I don't think we can afford to wait and keep the economy closed until we have a massive scale of antibody testing capability."

Pennsylvania too has seen a recent COVID-19 spike, fueled by near-record numbers of new cases in the Pittsburgh area.

Toomey's office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

John Cornyn

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) has received at least $10,200 from AMPAC.

In March, he tweeted out a photo of a Corona beer bottle while sitting in what appeared to be a bar or restaurant, along with the words, "Be smart; don't panic. We will get us through this."

On April 2, Cornyn urged against a national stay-at-home order. "Locking down the country more than necessary to defeat the virus to me seems like an overreaction," he told reporters.

"Not every place is the same," he said. "We've had the same conversation in Texas, but some places we have more cows than people, and the virus loves the crowd, loves congestion, and that's why you see places like New York and Dallas, for example, which is having its own struggles."

Texas, which pushed to reopen early, set a state record on Tuesday with more than 10,000 new cases.

Cornyn's office did not respond to an inquiry for this story.

Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has received at least $10,000 from AMPAC.

"We've got to deal with the economic devastation of all of the people who are hurting and I'll tell you it is time for Texans to go back to work," Cruz said in April. "I'm very glad that both the president and the governor are laying out a specific time frame, a specific plan to get Texans back to work."

He added that the "very vulnerable, those who are elderly, those who have serious health conditions, you should stay home if that describes you," but said that "for people who are young and healthy and able to work, we need to get people back to work sooner rather than later."

In May, Cruz also cheered on a Texas salon owner who defied both a stay-at-home order and court instructions not to reopen her business. "This is NUTS," he tweeted after a judge sentenced the owner to seven days in jail. "And government officials don't get to order citizens to apologize to them for daring to earn a living."

Cruz's office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Ken Buck

Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) has received at least $3,000 from AMPAC over the years.

In a Washington Examiner op-ed back in April, Buck and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) wrote that it was "time to open the country and protect the most vulnerable in a more targeted way."

"The longer government-imposed lockdowns go on, the more people will lose their jobs — millions more. Thousands of businesses will close their doors. The physical and emotional toll from this self-imposed economic destruction will be worse than the doomsday prophets projected," they wrote.

"You're dealing with a lot of hype about fatalities," Buck told Politico at the time. "I don't know anybody that wants to be the person who says, '33,000 deaths is okay, but 100,000 is not acceptable.' But that's what officials are elected to do."

While Colorado has not seen as big of a surge as other places, new cases have been increasing in recent weeks. Public health officials point to decreased social distancing as the cause.

Buck's office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Dan Crenshaw

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) has received at least $3,000 from AMPAC.

In March, he demanded Americans be given a specific end date for stay-at-home rules. "We MUST do everything in our power to provide a reasonable, health-informed, date for when Americans can safely return to regular economic activity in their communities," he wrote.

In April, he decried a mandatory face mask policy as "unjust government tyranny."

And in May, he joined Cruz in defending the salon owner who defied a court order to reopen her business, tweeting, "Small-minded 'leaders' across the country have become drunk with power. This must end."

That same month, Crenshaw wrote in the Wall Street Journal that it was "time to reopen America in a smart and deliberate fashion and stop calling people murderers because they want to get back to work."

"The American people are responsible enough to live free and confront risk," he wrote. "Let them do so."

A day later, he cheered on Texas' reopening, telling critics there was "no apocalypse coming."

Crenshaw's office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.