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Fans of the Fox News Channel program The Five are probably familiar with the show’s format. A group of political pundits gathers around a table weekdays at 5 p.m. and shouts back and forth on the topics of the day.
Most are professional pundits, though co-host Dana Perino did serve as press secretary for George W. Bush. And many times, the panel offers some harsh criticism for President Barack Obama.
On its Halloween episode, co-host Greg Gutfeld broadsided Obama’s health care law and the administration’s sales job.
Holding a demon puppet he called Seth, Gutfeld said that if Democrats had "to sell a razor blade" they’d "put it in an apple."
"They got to hide the ugliness of their beliefs," Gutfeld said.
The comment drew a response from liberal co-host Bob Beckel, who made an effort to defend the law and countered that his conservative colleagues were schilling for the insurance industry.
"The insurance industry is actually run by mostly Democrats and gave President Obama a lot of …" Perino jumped in.
Before she could finish, Beckel groaned, "Buuulllll …." before trailing off himself.
"That is true, Bob, and the associations prove it," countered Perino.
Beckel, who wears trademark suspenders, was later seen resting his arms on a pumpkin that had "single payer" written on it in marker.
As fact-checkers, we’ll weigh in on Perino’s point, that the insurance industry is "run by mostly Democrats." We reached out to Perino but didn’t hear back.
Of course, there is no simple way to determine the political affiliation of the entire health insurance industry.
We started by checking Perino’s suggestion that health insurance associations prove her claim to be right. The two largest that we could identify are America's Health Insurance Plans and the National Association of Health Underwriters.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tallies political contributions, America’s Health Insurance Plans political action committee has contributed about $396,000 to Democrats since 2008 compared to $436,000 to Republicans over the same period of time.
The CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, Karen Ignagni, has donated to both Republicans and Democrats over the years -- including Eric Cantor and Josh Mandel on the Republican side and Henry Waxman and Charles Schumer among the Democrats. Ignagni has led health industry groups since 1993 and worked for the AFL-CIO before that.
We wouldn’t conclude that means the industry is mostly run by Democrats. (We wouldn’t conclude that the industry is run mostly by Republicans, either.)
The National Association of Health Underwriters PAC, meanwhile, has contributed $1.74 million to Republicans since 2008 and $494,000 to Democrats. (We found no political contributions from CEO Janet Trautwein.)
Overall, the Center for Responsive Politics says that the insurance industry has contributed $94 million to Republicans since 2008 and $62 million to Democrats. (This particular comparison is only modestly helpful, however, as it includes companies that also provide property, life and car insurance.)
Another way to consider Perino’s claim is to look at the men and women running the largest health insurance companies in the United States.
Here is a list of some of those companies, the number of people they say they serve, and what we know about the political leanings of the chief executives:
UnitedHealthcare (70 million people served): The company’s PAC, United For Health, reported that 58 percent of its 2012 federal contributions went to Republicans, while 42 percent went to Democrats. Since 2008, the group has given slightly more to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics -- $721,000 to Democrats and $704,000 to Republicans. CEO Stephen Hemsley has donated almost solely to Republicans since 2010, including $10,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and $5,000 to U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
Aetna (50 million people served): Aetna’s political action committee reported that it donated $285,500 to Republican candidates in 2012, compared with $170,000 to Democrats. It contributed more money to Republican candidates in 2010 and 2008 as well. CEO Mark T. Bertolini has donated to both Republicans and Democrats, including Republican U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss, Rob Portman, Kelly Ayotte and Roy Blunt, and Democrats Ron Wyden and Max Baucus.
WellPoint (36 million people served): The company’s political action committee, WellPAC, contributed about $1.5 million to Republican candidates since 2008 and about half as much to Democrats. Joseph R. Swedish, who was named CEO in March, has only made one contribution to a federal candidate since 2010, $500 to Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
Humana (20 million people served): Humana’s political action committee has contributed more to Republicans in every political cycle since 2000. Humana CEO Bruce D. Broussard mainly has contributed only to Humana’s PAC.
The Center for Public Integrity reported that from January 2007 through August 2012 "the political action committees of the 11 largest health insurance companies and their primary trade group gave $10.2 million to federal politicians with nearly two-thirds of the total going to Republicans who oppose the law or support its repeal."
In the case of America’s largest health insurers, there is little evidence to suggest they are run mostly by Democrats based on their political giving.
Perino claimed that the health insurance industry is run mostly by Democrats. We could find almost nothing to suggest that’s the case.
The way most large businesses and industries show their political stripes, through campaign contributions, suggests that large health insurers and their trade associations are more likely to support Republicans. Or at the least, that they hedge their bets by supporting both sides.
We rate Perino’s claim False.
Fox News Channel, The Five, Oct. 31, 2013
America's Health Insurance Plans, accessed Nov. 1, 2013
National Association of Health Underwriters, accessed Nov. 1, 2013
Center for Responsive Politics, America’s Health Insurance Plans donations, accessed Nov. 1, 2013
Center for Responsive Politics, National Association of Health Underwriters PAC, accessed Nov. 1, 2013
United for Health, 2012 political donations, accessed Nov. 1, 2013
Center for Responsive Politics, Stephen Hemsley’s donations, accessed Nov. 1, 2013
Aetna PAC, 2012 political donations, accessed Nov. 1, 2013
Center for Responsive Politics, Aetna’s political donations, accessed Nov. 1, 2013
Center for Responsive Politics, Mark T. Bertolini’s donations, accessed Nov. 1, 2013
Center for Responsive Politics, WellPAC’s political donations, accessed Nov. 1, 2013
Center for Responsive Politics, Humana’s political donations, accessed Nov. 1, 2013
Center for Public Integrity, Health insurance PACs have love-hate relationship with health care reform, Oct. 4, 2012
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