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September 17, 2008

Dem Group Asks, Which Side Are You On?

As Barack Obama and John McCain debate the intricacies of health care policy, a new 501(c)(4) organization is bringing the issue to the congressional level, and they've got Republican-held seats in their crosshairs.

The group, Health Care for America Now, will spend about $500,000 in six House districts and the New Hampshire Senate race, spokesman Richard Kirsch told The Scorecard. The message will contrast the presidential candidates' health care proposals and put not so subtle pressure on their colleagues running for Congress.

"The basic message is that there's a choice between two visions of health care," Kirsch said. He said the group's advertisements will ask a named candidate "Which side are you on, ours or the insurance industry's?"

That question will be put to Republican Reps. Tim Walberg of Michigan, Randy Kuhl of New York and Ric Keller of Florida, as well as to Senator John Sununu in New Hampshire. But the organization will also run ads in Minnesota's Third District, Illinois' Eleventh District and Missouri's Ninth District, all three open seats currently held by the GOP.

Each district, according to Kirsch, will receive some combination of half a million dollars in television and radio ad spending, a mail program and phone calls. Kirsch said if the group raises more money, they could expand their operations into other targeted districts.

That additional funding would come from unions like the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the National Education Association and SEIU, all of which are among HCAN's organizational members. Other liberal groups like Americans United for Change, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America are also founding members.

As a 501(c)(4) organization, HCAN can advocate certain issue positions but cannot directly advocate for a candidate's election or defeat. While the group does not have to disclose the unlimited contributions it is allowed to raise, Kirsch said the group had reached its $3.5 million fundraising goal.