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Groups Launch Anti-Health Care Reform Ads

The Employment Policies Institute, founded by lobbyist and public relations man Richard Berman, has launched a $10 million television campaign warning about the high cost of proposed health care reform.

The television spots, which will be aired on national cable channels and in six states, are part of the high-priced efforts by both sides to influence the health care debate as the Senate prepares to take up the legislation as soon as next week.

Berman, long a lightning rod for consumer groups, has represented a long list of clients including restaurants, soda-makers and other business interests. He has set up a variety of nonprofits over the years, including EPI, to press various corporate causes.

In an interview, he said the health care advertising campaign is funded by a number of his clients, whom he declined to name.

“These are people we do business with and have an interest in the issue,” he said.

Berman indicated health care was a major issue for his group, which also underwrote a multimillion-dollar effort opposing the union-backed “card-check” proposals in Congress.

“We’re putting some serious money behind it,” said Berman, who is executive director for EPI.

He said the health care ad campaign will run about eight to 10 weeks.

“Then we will see where we are,” he said “Our goal is to educate people as to how this is playing out. There are so many moving pieces to the legislation. It is so big most people don’t understand it. We hope to be able to bring some clarity to it.”

Berman said his group, founded almost two decades ago, also weighed in against the Clinton health care plan.

The new ads feature June O’Neill, director of the Congressional Budget Office from 1995 to 1999, who speaks about the debt crisis facing the country.

“Many of the plans to reform heath care will make this crisis worse,” she says in the commercial.

The ads will be airing on Fox News, CNBC and CNN. On Monday, the group also plans high saturation of the ads in Nebraska, North Dakota, Arkansas, Louisiana, Connecticut and Maine. Many of the Senators from those states will be critical swing votes when the chamber takes up the matter.

Meanwhile, a conservative seniors group is targeting 15 House Democrats for their votes last weekend on health care legislation, including proposed cuts to some programs popular with the elderly. The Arlington-based 60 Plus Association is spending $1.5 million on automated telephone calls and television advertising in the districts of vulnerable incumbents like freshman Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.).

“This bill adds hundreds of entitlements and only cuts one — Medicare. By voting ‘yes’ these Members betrayed seniors and the best interests of their district,” 60 Plus Association President Jim Martin said in a statement. “I hope the Senators in these states take note of the senior anger while they are deciding how to vote on this important legislation.”

Matthew Murray contributed to this report.

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