Big Money Dump To Sway Health Reform

As if the entire weekend of torrential rain wasn't depressing enough, today's New York Times offers more gloomy news: it's a story about the mind-boggling amount of money being spent to influence lawmakers on health care reform.

With a vote on President Obama's health care legislation expected as early as this week, reporter Jeff Zeleny says the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is leading a group of opponents, who together have already spent $11 million this month (with more to come) to target 27 House Democrats who supported the bill last year and 13 who were against it. Of course, supporters of the measure are also spending millions, the report says. Zeleny writes:

The Chamber of Commerce is leading the opposition to the health care bill with a coalition called Employers for a Healthy Economy. In two weeks, the group has bought more than $7 million in television advertising and plans to spend up to $3 million more. Americans for Prosperity, a group financed by David Koch, the oilman, is also jumping into the fray with an advertising campaign of nearly $1 million.

An alliance of groups supporting the health care plan, which works closely with the White House and Democratic leaders, had been spending far less and focusing on fewer districts. But after pharmaceutical companies made a $12 million investment for a final advertising push, spending by both sides for the first time is now nearly the same.

Meanwhile, President Obama is doing what he can to corral enough Democrats to pass his top domestic priority. Zeleny reports:

Mr. Obama is making daily telephone calls to Democrats who supported the health care bill last year, but have yet to decide how they intend to vote this time. He is also focusing on those who opposed the legislation, including Representative Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, who said the measure did not go far enough.

The president’s trip to Ohio includes Mr. Kucinich’s district, and he invited the congressman to join him aboard Air Force One. Mr. Kucinich said he was grateful for the ride and for the president’s visit, but added that he was disinclined to support the bill as it stands.

“Barack Obama is my president; I want him to succeed,” Mr. Kucinich said in an interview. “But I think it’s important to have real health care reform. I wish I could vote for it, but I don’t think I can.”

This program aired on March 15, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

Headshot of Rachel Zimmerman

Rachel Zimmerman Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for WBUR. She is working on a memoir about rebuilding her family after her husband’s suicide. 



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