A Pennsylvania legislator took money from a PAC, then crafted legislation to benefit them while trumpeting their cause. We need daylight on this.
Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed Republican state Rep. Thomas Murt’s May 20 opinion piece titled “Mail order orthodontics on the rise.” In this column, Rep. Murt outlined the reasons that he believes mail-order braces and at-home straightening kits, such as Invisalign, to be (in his words) “a very dangerous practice that needs to be addressed.” He ends the piece by noting that he has introduced legislation to the General Assembly which “requires patients to see a dentist or orthodontist and be cleared for orthodontic treatment, whether it be through the mail or through the traditional in-person approach.”
Rep. Murt’s motivation for writing this piece is worth careful review. You see, at least since Rep. Murt appeared at a meeting of the Pennsylvania Dental Association’s Political Action Committee (PADPAC) in 2012, Rep. Murt has received substantial donations from PADPAC. PADPAC supports Pennsylvania’s dentists; out-of-state distributors of mail-order orthodontics are not among its supporters.
Rep. Murt failed to acknowledge that the Pennsylvania State Board of Dentistry, the official body charged with regulating dentistry in Pennsylvania, has to date issued no opinion on these treatments. This organization is composed of highly qualified dental professionals, and its members have been confirmed by the action of the GOP-controlled state Senate. What makes state legislators more qualified than the state board on these matters? Rep. Murt could have advocated a review of this issue by the state board to obtain its views, and if he believes that fraud or anything similar has occurred, he should seek action by Attorney General Shapiro, whose office has vigorously pursued wrongdoers.
Further, in response to Rep. Murt’s posting of his article on his social media, several consumers of orthodontic services have posted criticism of his bill, most notably on the grounds that due to the exorbitant prices of health care in the United States, simple dentist visits are cost-prohibitive — never mind visits for specialized orthodontia.
Ultimately, my belief is that a legislator’s relationships with political action committees should be disclosed up front. Rep. Murt really should have indicated relevant donations in his opinion piece to ensure that his constituents could fully assess any relationship between political actions committees and his legislative actions.
If elected your state representative, I promise to fully disclose any relevant political action committee donations when advocating legislation. I have signed the Pennsylvania No-Nonsense Pledge (which can be seen at panononsensepledge.com), which should be a cornerstone of how 21st-century legislators should ensure that the public interest comes before special interests.
Daryl Boling is the Democratic Party endorsed candidate for the Pennsylvania State House in the 152nd District.