Santorum's S.C. campaign gets boost from BlueCross BlueShield execs

Rick Santorum’s S.C. base — at least financially speaking — is BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, located in northeast Richland County.

The former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, who is getting a second look by many after his virtual tie with GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucuses, had raised $80,080 from S.C. donors as of the end of 2011’s third quarter.

More than a quarter of that money, $21,000, came from top executives of BlueCross, the largest S.C.-based insurance company, according to the Federal Elections Commission, which tracks candidate donations.

James D’Alessio, the company’s vice president of government affairs, is Santorum’s “S.C. business coalitions” chairman, helping, in his spare time, Santorum build S.C. business ties.

Also, Jim Deyling, the president of the insurer’s BlueCross BlueShield division, hosted a fundraiser for Santorum in late June.

“I did co-host a fundraiser in my house, but it was a personal thing for me,” Deyling said. “I personally believe that Sen. Santorum is the candidate that best represents my personal views. He certainly represents my moral values more than any of the other candidates. He represents my views on national security and the need for a smaller government.

“The opportunity came up to host, what frankly was a small fundraiser, and I had the opportunity to invite colleagues and friends,” Deyling said.

Deyling said none of the BlueCross executives attended the fundraiser or donated because they think Santorum’s candidacy will benefit their company.

In total, a dozen BlueCross executives and their wives donated to Santorum, according to the federal data. A review of other GOP candidates’ disclosures did not find similarly sized donations.

The $21,000 in donations from BlueCross executives to Santorum — all given between late June and September — come from the company’s top brass. The donations included $2,500 from the company’s president and chief executive David Pankau and $2,000 from retired CEO and current board chairman Ed Sellers.

A company spokeswoman said the donations are based on employees’ personal beliefs, not the company’s. “These contributions to the senator’s campaign reflect individual, personal support and in no way reflect corporate endorsement of any specific candidate,” said spokeswoman Patti Embry-Tautenhan.

Santorum’s S.C. fundraising mix is likely to change in coming days. Since his Iowa success, he has raised more than $1.25 million and counting nationally, according to a campaign spokesman. A state-by-state breakdown was not available.

BlueCross company lobbies lawmakers at both the state and federal level. Its more than 40 subsidiaries have dozens of federal contracts, mainly doing backroom functions that include reviewing and processing federal Medicare and Medicaid claims.

Santorum, whose father was a psychologist, has said his presidential candidacy was fueled by his desire to overturn the federal health care act, passed under President Barack Obama. Like the other GOP candidates, Santorum calls for the repeal of the law, which will require all Americans to be insured.

Instead, Santorum proposes strengthening health savings accounts and high-deductible insurance plans, allowing patients to buy insurance across state lines and allowing those who buy their own health-care coverage to do so with pre-tax dollars, including refundable tax-credits.

Santorum, a Catholic social conservative who is a staunchly anti-abortion, has a history with the health industry, which donated $3 million to his campaigns during his congressional career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Since losing his U.S. Senate seat in 2006, Santorum has become a millionaire, according to the Washington Post, working as a consultant for industry and lobbying firms, including American Continental Group and its insurance clients. Santorum also has earned money from fees and stock options that he has been paid for being a director of Universal Health Services, a publicly traded health-care management company, according to Bloomberg News.

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