Business group unveils $10 million campaign against health reform

A pro-business group that helped defeat President Bill Clinton’s healthcare plan announced Thursday a $10 million campaign against the pending healthcare legislation.

The radio and television campaign is part of a wave of ads that advocacy groups have unveiled in the past day.

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The Employment Policies Institute said the $10 million campaign would be its largest ever on the issue of healthcare. It will run over the next eight to 10 weeks.

The pro-business group will air ads in six states — Arkansas, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska and North Dakota — starting Monday. Those states are represented by centrist senators whose votes are critical to passage of the healthcare bill.

“We’re doing a high-saturation campaign in those states,” said spokeswoman Sarah Longwell. “Nobody will miss our ads.”

Ads on national cable stations start this week.

The announcement came on the heels of news that the 60 Plus Association, a conservative seniors group, is launching a $1.5 million campaign targeting 15 House Democrats who voted for healthcare reform Saturday.

Labor groups are returning fire. The Foundation for Patient Rights, a new 501(c)4 organization affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, has unveiled a new $400,000 television campaign against Republicans who opposed the House bill. Two of the targets, Reps. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Mike Castle (R-Del.) are running for Senate.

Pro-business and pro-labor groups have unleashed millions of dollars in the states of swing senators in anticipation of the healthcare debate that may begin in the upper chamber next week.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that he would bring healthcare legislation to the floor next week and plans to send it to President Barack Obama for a signature by Christmas. Reid did not rule out the possibility that he would seek to begin floor debate before the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) completed a cost analysis of the bill.

“After what the House did, it was pretty clear that this whole debate is getting out of hand,” said Rick Berman, executive director of the Employment Policies Institute.

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Reid has begun to look more closely at the House Democrats’ proposal for funding reform: tax increases for the nation’s highest income earners. Reid is reviewing a plan to increase the payroll tax for individuals earning more than $250,000 a year, according to The Associated Press.

Berman said he hopes to raise $15 million in total for the campaign against Democratic healthcare proposals. He declined to reveal his group’s donors. The Center for Union Facts and the Employee Freedom Action Committee, two 501(c) groups also staffed by Berman’s firm, Berman & Company, spent $25 million over several years to oppose card-check legislation, a top priority of labor unions.

The new ad from the Employment Policies Institute features former CBO Director June O’Neill, who tells viewers: “I’m deeply concerned about these healthcare reforms.

“They will add hundreds of billions of dollars to the already $12 trillion national debt,” she says in the ad. “We are paying $500 million a day in interest alone. This growing debt is unsustainable.”

Reid has yet to unveil the legislation the Senate will debate. The CBO estimated a bill approved by the Senate Finance Committee would cut the national deficit by $81 billion over 10 years.

The new ad by the labor-backed Foundation for Patient Rights takes Republican lawmakers to task for opposing a bill that “keeps health insurance companies honest,” caps out-of-pocket expenses and has the support of the AARP.

This article was updated on Nov. 13 at 10:48 a.m.