EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

March 3, 2014

Nursing home sought donations for DeLeo

(Continued)

HealthBridge Management is a New Jersey-based company that operates 27 nursing homes and rehabilitation centers in five states. It runs 15 facilities in Massachusetts, including Essex Park, a 202-bed facility on Essex Street in Beverly, and Peabody Glen Health Care Center on Route 114 in Peabody.

The company did not respond to questions about whether similar letters were sent to families at their other facilities.

Pamela Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause, said corporations are not allowed to contribute to candidates. Gathering checks from other people and presenting them to the candidate’s campaign “is essentially the same thing as making contributions themselves,” she said.

“It looks like a rather ham-handed attempt to flex political muscle, and that’s not the way we want to see our industries making their case,” Wilmot said.

Jason Tait, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance, said he could not comment on individual cases.

In general, Tait described bundling as “the practice of gathering a number of contributions from different individuals and delivering them to a candidate or candidate’s political committee.”

DeLeo spokesman Seth Gitell referred questions about the Essex Park letter to DeLeo’s campaign committee. Gemma Martin, the assistant treasurer for the DeLeo campaign, said the state representative from Winthrop was unaware of Essex Park’s solicitation and will not accept the donations.

DeLeo is scheduled to attend an upcoming fundraiser organized by the Massachusetts Senior Care Association, which represents nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. In a statement, the organization said it encourages family members of residents to become involved in “grass-roots advocacy” for resident care, but does not “condone the solicitation of family members for political fundraisers.”

The Massachusetts Senior Care Association supports a bill pending in the state Legislature that would increase Medicaid payments to nursing homes.

The state Medicaid program pays for the care of about two-thirds of nursing home residents in Massachusetts, according to the association. The reimbursements are $37 per day below the cost of patient care, the association says.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.

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