Wellpoint Backs Stark’s Opponent in California House Race

Representative Pete Stark, a California Democrat who’s attacked health insurance companies, has drawn opposition from the nation’s second-biggest insurer in the Nov. 6 election.

Wellpoint Inc., based in Indianapolis, donated $4,000 last month through its political action committee to Eric Swalwell, a Democratic city councilman who’s running against Stark, according to a filing the insurer’s PAC, Wellpac, made Oct. 3 to the Federal Election Commission.

Swalwell was the only federal candidate challenging an incumbent officeholder who received a donation last month from Wellpac, which otherwise sent donations to candidates who are incumbents or seeking seats that officeholders aren’t defending.

Stark, who’s seeking a 21st House term, has criticized Wellpoint and other insurers for proposing premium increases as they earn billions in profit. He’s a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee, which has an expansive jurisdiction that includes health policy.

“I’ve never been afraid to take on for-profit health insurance companies and special interests,” Stark said in a statement that was e-mailed by his campaign. “I’m proud to be supported by doctors, nurses, teachers and firefighters, and not surprised that a for-profit insurance company would support my opponent.”

Stark is facing what is probably the most serious re-election challenge in his career, following a redrawing of California district lines and a June primary election in which he outran Swalwell, who’s also a Democrat, by just 42 percent to 36 percent in the 15th District, which includes Hayward, Livermore and San Ramon. Under California law, Stark and Swalwell advanced to the Nov. 6 general election because they were the top two vote-getters in the primary.

Stark’s political position weakened after local newspaper editorials and stories called attention to his history of controversial statements, including unfounded allegations that Swalwell accepted bribes. Stark has “made a fool of himself almost every time he’s been in the public spotlight,” said a San Francisco Chronicle editorial last month.

Wellpac also gave money last month to some candidates in competitive Senate races, including Democrat Chris Murphy in Connecticut and Republicans Rick Berg in North Dakota, Richard Mourdock in Indiana, Jeff Flake in Arizona, and Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin.

The PAC also donated to the re-election campaign of Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who polls show is in a close race with Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren.

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