WASHINGTON – Lockheed Martin, Black & Decker and Perdue Farms are among some of the biggest names in corporate America that call Maryland home.
But a little-known health care firm in Owings Mills – started just 11 years ago – has emerged as the state’s biggest player in national politics.
Integrated Health Services Inc. and its executives have donated more than $750,000 in the last 2 1/2 years to the two major political parties and various federal candidates. And the company has spent $400,000 to lobby Capitol Hill, according to government records.
The contributions from the company itself totaled $545,000, nearly twice as much as the next biggest Maryland contributor – Synergics Energy Development Inc., an Annapolis-based hydroelectric power developer, according to Federal Election Commission records.
More than half of the political donations from Integrated Health and company executives – $570,000 – has gone to the Democratic National Committee.
The company and its officers gave six times more money to the Democrats than to Republicans, $644,700 to $106,270. The biggest GOP recipient – the Republican National State Elections Committee – received $65,270.
Dr. Robert N. Elkins of Owings Mills, the founder, chairman and chief executive, has been the company’s biggest individual contributor. Since 1995, he has given $127,750 to political action committees and campaigns, including $100,000 to the DNC.
White House records show that Elkins attended three of the now infamous White House coffees between President Clinton and Democratic contributors in 1995 and 1996. The DNC did not return phone calls about Elkins and Integrated Health.
Integrated’s executive vice president of development, Brian K. Davidson of Long Green, donated $21,000. Davidson’s largest contribution, $10,000, also went to the DNC.
Other recipients include Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M., ($10,000), Sen. Edward Kennedy’s political action committee, Committee for a Democratic Majority, ($9,000), Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott’s political action committee, New Republican Majority, ($5,000) and The Capitol Committee, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch’s political action committee, ($13,000).
Maryland’s political scene has not missed out on Integrated’s generosity.
The Democratic State Central Committee of Maryland received $6,000 from two executive officers. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., who is up for re-election next year, received a $500 donation from Elkins.
Integrated officials declined to discuss the company’s political strategies – or anything else.
“The company does not give interviews,” said Marc B. Levin, executive vice president of investor relations.
But campaign finance critics said Integrated’s political strategy is clear: to influence how the health care industry is regulated by the Democratic-controlled administration and how it is funded by the Republican-controlled Congress.
“This is a good example that illustrates that the giving is determined by pragmatism and self-interest,” said Paul Hendrie, communications director at the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan research organization that specializes in the role money plays in congressional elections and actions.
Integrated also has become active in lobbying Congress.
The company hired three Washington area lobbying firms – including one headed by former Republican Party Chairman Haley Barbour – to press its causes on Capitol Hill.
Integrated’s lobbyists have focused on Medicare, Medicaid, health insurance reform and home health issues, according to lobbying disclosure reports.
The company paid lobbyists $220,000 last year and $180,000 in the first six months of this year, the records show.
The lobbyists did not return telephone calls to discuss their work for Integrated.
Elkins, 53, whose medical background is in psychiatry and internal medicine, started the publicly traded company in 1986.
The company operates more than 1,000 facilities in 47 states, including five at the corporate headquarters in Owings Mills, one in Baltimore and one in Denton. It reported net revenues of $1.43 billion last year.
Services the company provides include home health care, outpatient care, rehabilitation, hospice care and nursing homes.
Through acquisitions in the last year, Integrated has become the fourth-largest home health care services company in the country, according to Integrated’s annual report.
Its most notable acquisition was of First American Health Care, the nation’s largest privately held home health care provider.
Last week, Integrated announced that it would buy nursing homes and other medical businesses from the Birmingham-based HealthSouth Corp. for $1.25 billion.
“We plan to dominate as many local markets as possible,” Elkins wrote in the company’s annual report. “We are also planning an evolution of this model to continue our market dominance well into the 21st century.”
The annual report does not mention the company’s political activities.