The Democratic National Committee is defending its decision to spend nearly $500,000 on television ads that, in the process of defending Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) for his support of health care reform, took a swipe at a public option for insurance coverage.
On Monday, Joe Sudbay of Americablog reported that the DNC had forked over $459,760.00 to the Nebraska Democratic Committee, which, in turn, used that money to sponsor television ads on Nelson's behalf. Those ads featured the senator explaining his support for health care legislation in part by noting he had changed the legislation so that insurance coverage would not be "run by the government." It was a clear slight at the public plan.
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Jim Manley, told Ben Smith of Politico that the money was not part of the deal to get Nelson's vote. But the real question was why the DNC would pay for ads that maligned government-run insurance at the same time the party was rallying behind that very proposal.
Asked about the expenditure, DNC Press Secretary Hari Sevugan sent over a statement that glossed over the question of how strongly the committee was devoted to the public option in favor of pointing out that Nelson was (then and now) under immense political pressure.
"We, the Democratic Party, were defending a Democratic senator from attacks from the health insurance industry and other special interests for his support of reform," Sevugan writes. "Senator Nelson is not the first Democrat we have defended from these attacks and he will not be the last. We've spent money directly in support of House Democrats who have supported reform in the form of TV and radio ads and we've also worked with state parties to defend Democrats like Senators Nelson, Lincoln and Dorgan who have stood up to the insurance industry in support of reform."
HERE IS THE AD NELSON RAN IN HIS HOME STATE: