Chamber To Spend $50M On Anti-Health Care Reform Campaign

March 31, 2010 8:59 am

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will spend $50 million on an election campaign around bashing health care reform that the Wall Street Journal called “an aggressive strategy to blunt the impact of the new law.” The new push for the 2010 midterm elections adds to a more than $144 million ad campaign the chamber mounted on behalf of its business membership in the last year against passage of the measure.

The Wall Street Journal detailed a letter that Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donohue sent board members outlining the strategy. “The Chamber is going to carry a message across the country that says the health care debate is not over,” Mr. Donohue wrote, according to the Journal. He wrote members that the chamber will put together a team of staffers to evaluate the federal regulations included in the law.

The chamber was a major player in ad spending and campaigns to challenge health care reform during the long debate in Congress, and the news is a signal that won’t let up any time soon. As we’ve been reporting, health care and charges to repeal the law or declare reform unconstitutional in court have emerged as a key 2010 campaign theme.The Journal reported that Donohue wrote members that the chamber “will take legal action” if regulators “exceed legislative mandates or try for end-runs around the lawful rulemaking process.”

The Donohue letter also goes into the recent announcements from top employers including AT&T and Caterpillar about how much health care will cost them — and Democrats’ requests to have officials from those firms testify before Congress. “They are searching for a way to blame these businesses for a mess that the lawmakers themselves have made,” he wrote, according to the Journal.

Donohue penned a piece for the chamber’s magazine titled “What’s Next For Health Care,” which had a lighter touch. He said in the piece, released yesterday, that health care reform will “be a hard sell” for Democrats, and portrayed the measure as a tax-raising, job-killing, deficit booster.

He wrote that the chamber wants to examine regulatory, legislative, legal and political elements of the plan to try and “fix the bill’s flaws and minimize its harmful impacts.” He said the chamber will “encourage citizens to hold their elected officials accountable when they vote this November.”

“This $950 billion, 2,800-page bill fails to fix what’s broken and risks breaking what works,” Donohue wrote. In the article, he accuses Democrats of using “engineered” Congressional Budget Office estimates thanks to “submitting unrealistic assumptions regarding future Medicare savings and by ignoring an expected increase in Medicare physician reimbursements.”

Donohue wrote: “Its true cost will be closer to $2 trillion at a time when the nation is already drowning in red ink. Bankrupting our children’s future is just not right!”

DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan criticized the chamber’s plan and said the campaign is to help the insurance industry.

“Now that health care decisions are in their hands, the American people will not be fooled and aren’t going to hand over their health care to the insurance industry again – no matter how much money its front groups like the Chamber spend or how many lies they tell,” Sevugan said.

As we’ve reported, the chamber said recently it was not on board with GOP calls to repeal health care reform.

Late Update: Read the memo here.

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