POLITICS
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Anti-Reform Ads Blanket Critical Health Care States

Health care reform opponents are outspending proponents on television advertisements by roughly a three-to-one margin in two of the most critical states, according to an analysis of ad purchases.

Over the last 30 days, business groups, advocacy organizations, labor unions and others have spent approximately $2 million on television advertisements in Arkansas, according to numbers provided by Evan Tracey, president of Campaign Media Analysis Group. Two-thirds of that total has been spent by groups trying to derail reform's passage, such as the pro-business Employment Policy Institute and the senior-issues organization, 60 Plus Association. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, another reform opponent, spent just under $900,000 in the last month.

Considering that media markets in Arkansas are relatively inexpensive, the amount spent by all parties is "pretty significant," says Tracey. It also represents a major escalation in the health care ad wars. Less than $1 million was spent on health care advertising in the 30-day period preceding the most current one.

The targets of the spots are fairly clear: Arkansas is home to two critical Blue Dog Democrats in the House as well as one of the most important Democratic swing votes in the Senate -- Blanche Lincoln. And the ads could be having an impact, observers insist, persuading the senator to abandon her earlier support for a public option for insurance coverage.

"What changed [for Lincoln] was millions of dollars of spending from pharmaceutical and insurance companies and Republicans in the state that turned the idea of universal health care into something evil," said Max Brantley, editor of the Arkansas Times.

Arkansas isn't the only state besieged by anti-reform television spots. In Louisiana, home to another swing Democratic vote -- Mary Landrieu -- groups spent roughly $2.7 million on advertisements during the past 30 days. And, once more, the breakdown was three-to-one in favor of reform opponents, according to Tracey.

"It bears out nationally as well," he told the Huffington Post. "There has been a huge shift of groups opposing health care reform starting to outspend proponents."

"It started at the end of July and August. Once we got into the August recess you had several of the groups against reform really weighing in," Tracey said. "The Chamber's big effort started in that time frame, America's Health Insurance Plans came on, 60 Plus ramped up as well. A lot of it has to do with that you now have specific bills. Everyone was waiting on the sidelines for something to come out. And when it finally did they ramped up their advertising."

"The other thing is there have been multiple end games," Tracey added, noting critical votes in congressional committees as well as on the floor of both the House and the Senate, "Every one of those things is kind of the equivalent of an Election Day... where everyone tries to go to max volume."

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