Aug 23, 2009 1 Comment ›› Pat Dollard
Seeking to ensure that President Obama has a less-than-restful vacation, a group opposed to the White House’s health-care proposals is launching an ad campaign this week that will run locally during his stay at Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.
Conservatives for Patients’ Rights says it plans to run a spot titled “Surf’s Up” in the Martha’s Vineyard and Boston areas that implores the president to drop his pursuit of a public health insurance option. The ad is the latest salvo in a multimillion-dollar message war over the fate of health reform that has shown no sign of abating, even during the normally quiet final weeks of summer.
“The beach is nice this time of year,” the ad’s narrator begins. “But while President Obama vacations, concerns mount about his health-care plan. Why? Because his public-option health plan could lead to government-run health care, higher taxes on everything from paychecks to soda, and add a trillion to the deficit. Mr. President, when you go back to D.C., drop your government-run public-option plan. Let’s get on with real reform to lower costs and protect patients’ rights.”
The group said it has laid out “more than $150,000″ for the ad campaign, a relatively small amount given that more than $60 million has been spent on health-care ads this year, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group. But CPR hopes to make its dollars count by putting the ad on the air in front of Obama, his staff and the traveling White House press corps. The group made a point of buying time during next week’s series between the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox, Obama’s favorite baseball team.
“While President Obama is vacationing in the surf at Martha’s Vineyard, Americans are growing increasingly anxious that the public option will raise costs, not lower them,” said Rick Scott, a former hospital chief executive who chairs CPR. “He should drop the public-option plan and go back to the drawing board.”
On Wednesday, Scott sent out an internal memo, published on WhoRunsGov.com (a Washington Post Co. Web site), warning that “the public option isn’t dead yet” and pledging to keep up the pressure on Obama with a “Martha’s Vineyard ad strategy.”
Asked at Friday’s briefing about the ad, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs made reference to Scott’s past legal problems. “Well, I think . . . this is the same individual that we’ve talked about in here who’s the recipient of — just so we do this so everybody understands — of the largest health-care penalty ever issued by a federal government for fraud for a company he was the CEO of, right?” Gibbs said.
Scott was pushed from his post atop the Columbia/HCA health-care company during a fraud investigation in the 1990s. The firm paid a record $1.7 billion in fines after pleading guilty to charges that it overbilled state and federal health plans.
Targeting vacationing presidents via the airwaves is nothing new. It was common for groups to buy ad time in Waco, Tex., when President George W. Bush was at his ranch in nearby Crawford (and accompanying reporters had a lot of downtime to watch TV).
While CPR focuses on Martha’s Vineyard, other groups in the health-care fight will spend the rest of August on the air nationally and in key congressional districts.
The liberal group Americans United for Change will begin running an ad this week titled “Real Death Panels” on MSNBC and CNN, as well as on Washington area cable networks. The spot accuses conservatives such as Sarah Palin and talk-show host Glenn Beck of spreading “lies” about Democrats’ reform plans while insurance companies allegedly deny lifesaving care to patients. A group spokesman said the campaign’s initial price tag was “in the low five figures.”
On Thursday, the conservative group Club for Growth launched its third ad in a $1.2 million campaign, this one running in the home states of GOP Sens. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), Olympia J. Snowe (Maine) and Mike Enzi (Wyo.). The ad urges the three, all among the Finance Committee’s “Gang of Six” health-care negotiators, “not to cave in to the liberals” in reform talks.
The conservative Independent Women’s Forum is also targeting key senators, running more than $2 million worth of anti-public-option ads in Alaska, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada and North Dakota. And the National Republican Congressional Committee is airing ads against Democratic Reps. Michael Arcuri (N.Y.) and Zack Space (Ohio), saying they are allying themselves with Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) while they are “cooking up a risky experiment on health care.”