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$52 Million Has Been Spent So Far on Health-Care Reform Ads in What Could Be Record-Shattering Battle

A demonstrator in Lincoln, Neb., shows support for health-care reform just before the conservative group Americans for Prosperity begins a rally.
A demonstrator in Lincoln, Neb., shows support for health-care reform just before the conservative group Americans for Prosperity begins a rally. (By Nati Harnik -- Associated Press)
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The ad campaign is running on national cable stations, with additional rotations on Washington cable, for a modest total buy of about $10,000. "We anticipate using paid media throughout August, both in the states and nationally as necessary," said Americans United spokeswoman Lauren Weiner.

Organizing for America, the grass-roots arm of the Democratic National Committee, is planning a larger offensive this month. In July, the group ran a pro-reform television ad, "It's Time," in more than 20 local media markets, and is now airing a national cable spot highlighting "the cost of doing nothing."

Organized-labor groups also are spending heavily in support of Democrats' reform plans.

In the second half of July alone, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees ran at least four health-care ads aimed at 14 members of the House and Senate, with a roughly even split between Republicans and Democrats who are wavering on whether to support reform. The labor organization plans to continue the drumbeat this month.

"We spent over a million dollars in the past three weeks, and it's fair to say we're going to invest substantial resources in television advertising in August," said Charles M. Loveless, AFSCME's director of legislation. He added that the group has not finalized its list of targets for this month, but that "it's fair to say it will be a mix of Republicans and Democrats."

So far, spending in favor of Democratic reform plans ($17.4 million) has dwarfed spending on outright opposition ($8.1 million), according to CMAG, as some groups in the latter camp have been holding their fire until more details of the legislation begin to emerge.

The conservative group Americans for Prosperity spent more than $300,000 last week on a national and D.C. cable spot asking members of Congress, "Did you read the bill" before you voted for it? The group hopes to air more ads this month but would not elaborate on plans.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is running print ads aimed at protecting the employer-provided health-care system in Louisiana, Maine and North Carolina. "We plan to expand to TV and radio," said spokeswoman Blair Latoff, but the details have not been finalized.

After running television spots in Arkansas, Nevada and North Dakota last month, the Republican National Committee is now airing radio ads in 60 congressional districts in 33 states. The organization is beginning radio ads this week in the districts of four Blue Dog Democrats: Reps. Zack Space (Ohio), Baron P. Hill (Ind.), Bart Gordon (Tenn.) and Mike Ross (Ark.). All four voted in favor of the Energy and Commerce Committee's reform bill last week. Overall, the RNC is spending close to $1 million on a broad health-care campaign that includes TV and radio ads as well as "tele-town hall" meetings and a Web site that mocks the Obama reform "experiment."

On the left, MoveOn.org is on the radio, airing ads in the districts of three other conservative Blue Dogs who voted against the Energy and Commerce reform measure -- Reps. John Barrow (Ga.), Jim Matheson (Utah) and Charlie Melancon (La.). The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is also using radio, running "drive-time" spots that accuse seven GOP lawmakers of "siding with insurance companies" against reform.

Staff writer David Hilzenrath contributed to this report.


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