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New Health Care Advocacy Group Launches With $5 Million In The Bank (EXCLUSIVE)

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WASHINGTON -- The newest health care advocacy campaign already has millions of dollars in the bank. Launched by Democratic lawmakers and reform proponents, the two-part program is meant to frame the debate around the law during the 2012 election cycle.

On Thursday, Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.), former Gov. Jim Doyle (D-Wis.) and several Democratic operatives launched the latest variation of a pro-health care, non-governmental organization. The project has a dual track: a 501c(3) group, called “Know Your Care,” to promote the Affordable Care Act, and a 501c(4) group, “Protect Your Care,” to lobby on the law's behalf.

The project already has a healthy fundraising stream, a source familiar with the campaign told The Huffington Post.

The $5 million launch figure gives an early indication that the organization will succeed where other health care advocacy groups have failed: primarily, in turning the tide of public and political opinion in the law’s favor.

In addition to the money, Know Your Care brings some high-profile names to its staff: Patrick and Doyle will serve on the board. Neera Tanden, who worked on President Obama’s health care task force team, will be on the board as well; Paul Tewes, Obama’s state director for the Iowa caucuses, will serve as senior adviser; Tanya Bjork, a former top adviser to Doyle, will serve as campaign manager; Jim Margolis, a top ranking communications consultant, will serve as the group’s media adviser; Eddie Vale, a former top hand at the AFL-CIO, will be communications director; and John Anzalone, a major Democratic pollster, will do the polling.

“Our efforts here are to really to make sure that this is a factual debate and that the facts are out there,” said Doyle. “It is critical that people understand what the benefits of this act are, and I look forward to making sure those facts are known across the country.”

How the organizations will structure their operations or spend their money isn’t entirely clear. Officials at the launch were coy with strategy and plans, stressing only that Know Your Care and Protect Your Care will be informative in nature, will be active in races and will work through the 2012 election until the major components of the law are implemented in 2014.

Only the 501c(4) organization can engage in lobbying -- so long as it pertains to the organizational mission -- but neither side of the operation has to disclose its donor names.

“The rules are the rules,” said David Donnelly of Public Campaign Action Fund, a group that promotes ethics in government. “We want to change them. There some groups who feel like they have to disclose their donors, [...] there are others that choose not to. The problem comes if they start pushing the boundaries on tax law, spending more money on electoral work than issue advocacy.”

The new campaign has the luxury of working on an issue that seems likely to remain firmly in the political spotlight. The president’s health care reform is already a fault line in the 2012 Republican presidential primary.

Obama advisers insist the legislation passed by in Massachusetts by former governor -- and potential GOP candidate -- Mitt Romney (R) was the intellectual foundation for the Obama administration’s own law. Fellow Republicans have insisted that Romney will end up having to either apologize or better explain his role in the Massachusetts legislation. But for now, he provides Know Your Care and Protect Your Care with the type of hook that they can use to make their campaign a bi-partisan one.

“If people are attacking Mitt Romney for his health care plan,” said the source familiar with the group’s efforts, “we would defend Mitt Romney and his health care plan.”

On Thursday, Patrick previewed the type of line that could inevitably come from his new organization.

“I give Governor Romney genuine and sincere credit for his role in working with a Democratic legislature, a Democratic U.S. Senate, a Republican White House, a broad coalition of business and labor leaders and patients’ advocates and experts in the medical field who came together to invent our health care reform,” said the current Massachusetts governor. “And, frankly, that broad coalition -- I guess with the exception of Governor Romney -- has stuck together to refine it.”

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