Political Notebook

May 23, 2014

SEIU independent committee ad hits both Pacheco, Community hospital

Political Notebook

Breaking news, insight on the Valley's political movers and shakers

Fresno Coalition for Quality Schools, Jobs and Community Services is a union-backed independent committee set up to help current Fresno City Council Member Blong Xiong win a seat on the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.

In that task, the committee is doing its job.

It’s raised more than $70,000 — all of it from either Service Employees International Union Local 521 or Local 1000 — and has spent around $40,000 on Xiong’s District 1 supervisor race, primarily for a campaign mailers.

But what’s interesting is a radio commercial that doesn’t show up on the most recent campaign finance report, which goes through May 17. The commercial is running on KMJ and four other local stations.

Not surprisingly, the ad slams Kerman dairyman Brian Pacheco, the top fundraiser in the race, which features five people seeking to replace retiring Supervisor Phil Larson.

But what is surprising is that it slams Community Medical Centers, a private, nonprofit company that operates three area hospitals — Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno, Clovis Community Medical Center and Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital — almost as much as Pacheco, who is on the hospital system’s board of trustees.

“Brian Pacheco’s running for county supervisor backed by the richest people in town,” the ad starts. “Pacheco’s a board member at Community Medical Centers, one of the worst in overcharging patients while paying million dollar salaries. And reports say they charge 250% over cost. Things like $16 band aids and $17 aspirins.”

It goes on from there, slamming both Pacheco and Community, saying “Pacheco and the board were fined a million dollars for putting people back in the hospital who didn’t even need it. The worst is that Pacheco and the board operate in secret by calling themselves a non-profit.”

Dave Gilliard, Pacheco’s campaign consultant, called the ad a “last-minute smear campaign from the same liberal labor union that spent $1 million against Supervisor Phil Larson — and lost.”

In an extended written statement attributed to Michelle Von Tersch, director of Community’s communications and foundation operations, the hospital said it was “a nonprofit, public-benefit organization, not a political one. So we won’t comment directly on the labor union’s negative campaign ads.”

But the statement did say that when the company is “portrayed in some disparaging way, people should remind themselves what kind of organization Community really is: No other organization in the region contributes more. Last year alone, the total value of our charity care and other community benefits was more than $150 million.”

The statement said Community has spent “hundreds of millions” on expanding health care access, and that “studies show we’re among the lowest-charging hospital systems in the state.”

Tom Webster, a communications specialist with the Service Employees International Union Local 521, forwarded questions on the ad to the organization’s political arm, but as of Friday afternoon, Webster said there was no response.

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Breaking news and insight from Bee reporters on the central San Joaquin Valley's lawmakers, movers and shakers. 'Round election time, this place really heats up.

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