The battle for American hearts and minds on the issue of health care reform now moves from Washington—where Congress is in recess—into the states, where it will be discussed at kitchen tables, church picnics, senior centers and almost nightly in television and radio ads.
“Washington now runs your banks, insurance and car companies,” proclaims one ad from the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. “Do you trust Washington—with your life?” it asks. “If we don’t act … he won’t get the chemo he needs,” counters an ad from Healthy Economy Now as it flashes an image of a dejected little boy walking away from a swing.
In an effort to sway lawmakers and public opinion, millions of dollars will be pumped into an advertising blitz during recess. And sifting through the conflicting information in the deluge is no small feat.
“It isn’t always obvious when a person views a commercial who is behind the message,” explains Dave Levinthal, spokesperson for the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan lobbying and influence tracking group. “It is incumbent on Americans to research the organizations producing the advertisements to find where the money lies behind these organizations’ platforms.”
$1 million a day on ads
Spending to lobby the federal government on health care has surpassed spending on all other issues this year, totaling about $263 million, according to analysis from the Center for Responsive Politics. And those numbers don’t include ad dollars.
As of the beginning of August, roughly $52 million had been funneled into television ads on health care reform this year, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG). Half of that was spent last month.
The largest portion of the money spent on TV ads—$23 million—has been spent on advertising in favor of general health care reforms but not specifically linked to any plan on the table. Of the remaining ad dollars, spending from groups supporting President Obama’s health care plan is roughly double that of the opposition groups, notes Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of CMAG.
In late July, more than $1 million a day on average was spent on television ads discussing health care reform, he says. And both supporting and opposing groups are raising the stakes with carefully targeted campaigns in states with moderate Republican and conservative Democrat legislators.
Opposing groups face off
The health care issue has opened the wallets of a wide range of groups.
Leading the opposition to proposed reforms are groups including Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, a nonprofit group founded and funded by former hospital executive Rick Scott; Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a conservative group that supports small government and low taxes; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; the Republican National Committee; and the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.