State Rep. Tina Pickett, whose position in Harrisburg gives her enormous say-so over what happens to proposed insurance laws, has more cash in her political campaign account than any of her 201 colleagues in the House — thanks in large part to the insurance industry.
A review by The Morning Call of hundreds of campaign finance reports showed Pickett’s $268,546.49 cash balance in late May was inflated by a years-long influx of insurance industry cash that began when Pickett became chairwoman of the House Insurance Committee in 2013.
“The representative’s numbers are staggering,” said Douglas Heller, an insurance industry expert with the Consumer Federation of America, an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that carries out research and advocacy.
The newspaper’s review showed the balance in Pickett’s campaign account on May 18, the end date of the state reporting period just before the primary election, was tops among all House incumbents. In the subsequent period — the most recent for which records are publicly available — Pickett’s total increased slightly but still led all 202 House members.
At least $170,350 in contributions — or more than 54% of the overall total — made to Pickett’s campaign between her Sept. 25, 2013 assumption of the Insurance Committee chair and the May reporting date came from insurance industry political action committees or people tied to the industry.
Experts says such big contributions are made to curry favor.
One insurance group that gave more than $12,000 has even called Pickett the “lead architect and champion” for the industry.
“There is no coincidence that the chairperson suddenly is lavished with incredible amounts of campaign cash. Because, with this position, she has the power to move forward consumer protections, or stop them, and move forward industry interests or stop them, and that is a