Aug. 29, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Health Care Ads Hitting Fever Pitch

“They haven’t thrown in the towel. So that tells me: better run more ads,” said Adams, who has worked for a number of Republicans, including former Rep. J.C. Watts (Okla.) and one-time presidential contender Patrick Buchanan.

Adams said he plans to run about $700,000 in ads over the next couple of weeks. He said many of the ads will run in rural districts where advertising is cheaper.

Even if Congress finishes the job on health care reform legislation, that won’t stop the ads. Adams said his group would continue after the Congressional deliberations to remind the public how their Members voted.

Adams said his group’s funding came from many small donations and was not underwritten by any particular industry such as insurance companies.

The group’s Web site includes a fundraising appeal by former Clinton adviser and conservative columnist Dick Morris, who asks for $5 million in donations to air ads in 40 districts represented by Democrats but which GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) won.

It is difficult to get a complete handle on how much groups are paying for ads and rallies because most groups are not required to report spending on grass-roots activities, explained Craig Holman of Public Citizen. Nevertheless, Holman said he suspects these groups spend as much, if not more, on these kinds of activities as they do on conventional lobbying of lawmakers, which they must publicly disclose. A number of registered lobbying groups such as the chamber do include ad spending in their quarterly lobbying filings with Congress. But many of the smaller groups are not even registered lobbyists.

While the advocacy ads and grass-roots events may reach a crescendo this week, Tracey predicted the media campaign over health care will continue through the November Congressional elections.

“This election becomes a referendum on health care,” he said.

Micro-Targeting

With so many ads running, some groups are looking for ways to appeal to different segments of the population, such as women.

For example, Americans for Prosperity is running a television spot that features a breast cancer survivor, Tracy Walsh of South Carolina, who brings up a government advisory panel recommendation last November that women delay getting a mammogram until age 50. Walsh says that if she followed government guidelines, “my chances of survival would have been reduced.”

“What are your odds if the government takes over your health care?” Walsh asks in the ad. “We need to start over and get your health care right.”

The $750,000 ad buy is running in 18 Congressional districts, including those of a number of vulnerable Democrats, such as Reps. Earl Pomeroy (N.D.), Alan Mollohan (W.Va.) and Nick Rahall (W.Va.), and Christopher Carney (Pa.).

Last December, Senate Democrats responded to Republican uproar over the task force’s recommendation by approving an amendment to the health care bill that would ensure that women have access to mammograms.

To bolster Democrats who are under fire, the Service Employees International Union is planning to be on the air this week with ads supporting health care reform in targeted districts.

However, the union-backed Health Care for America Now, which ran millions of dollars worth of advertising last year, is taking a lower profile on the airwaves.

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