The South Texas construction magnate who is hosting a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in his home Friday night has made no secret of the fact that he raises tons of money for politicians in order to get “a seat at the table.”
“To me, there’s two things that will keep us from being ignored,” the megadonor, Alonzo Cantu, told The Washington Post for a 2007 profile. “Money and votes. I think we’ve shown we can raise money. That will get us attention, or at least get us a seat at the table, get us in the room.”
What Cantu seeks in exchange for hosting the $2,700 per person event is not entirely clear, though it could have to do with his ownership stake in Doctors Hospital at Renaissance (DHR), a large physician-owned facility near McAllen which hopes to avoid a major roadblock enacted by Obamacare.
Clinton and Cantu are not strangers. The son of Mexican immigrants, Cantu became a Clinton donor during Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign and donated to Hillary Clinton’s subsequent Senate bids. He ratcheted up his effort during the 2008 presidential primary campaign by bundling $640,000 for Clinton. To put that sum into perspective, The Post noted in 2007 that residents in the McAllen area had only contributed $2,086 to then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign.
Since then, Cantu has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for numerous Democratic candidates and committees. In 2013, he donated $25,000 to the Ready for Hillary PAC, and last year he hosted a dual-purpose fundraiser to benefit DHR and the Clinton Foundation.
Donors paid $1,000 per ticket to an event to benefit the hospital. VIPs who paid $25,000 were given tickets to attend a dinner at Cantu’s home. Proceeds from that event went to the Clinton Foundation, to which Cantu has donated between $500,000 and $1 million.
DHR could use some help from a friendly politician. The hospital hopes to double its size but is being stymied by Obamacare which prohibits doctor-owned hospitals from expanding. Proponents of the health care law sought the limitation because they believe that hospitals like DHR provide incentives to doctors to provide unnecessary services to patients. They may also deny service to poor patients or those with cheaper health insurance plans.
DHR hopes to obtain a waiver to allow it to continue with its expansion plans, which would be in keeping with Cantu’s rational for his extensive political fundraising.
“Understand, I don’t want anything,” he told The Post, adding, “just to help South Texas.”
Cantu-directed fundraising has already helped DHR overcome at least one major obstacle proposed in the early crafting of Obamacare. California U.S. Rep. Pete Stark, a Democrat, had proposed capping hospitals’ physician ownership stakes at 40 percent. Eighty percent of DHR is owned by the doctors that practice there.
But according to a New York Times article from July 2009, before Obamacare was finalized, Cantu’s massive fundraising effort helped sweep Stark’s proposal off the table.
In 2007, Cantu hosted a fundraiser at his McAllen home for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, raising $800,000. California U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi was in attendance, The Times reported.
In 2009, Cantu collected another $500,000 for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Most of that money came from DHR doctors.
“Particularly led by these guys in Texas, these guys who have been raising tons of money for contributions,” Pete Stark told The Times. “I am sure that some of my colleagues have been willing to hear them out.”
It is unclear if Clinton will entertain Cantu’s concerns. Friday’s fundraiser is closed to the press.