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Targeting Democratic Freshmen By Frightening Senior Citizens

bullseye.jpg Two local papers in Rep. Jerry McNerney’s district yesterday carried full-page ads calling on voters to contact their Congressman and urge him to “stop the cuts” on Medicare and “stand up for the quality skilled nursing care California’s seniors need.”

These ads were placed by the American Health Care Association and the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care. The AHCA announced this ad campaign in a press release dated August 22:

In response to the $2.7 billion cuts to Medicare that were passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in the Children’s Health and Medicare Protection Act (CHAMP Act), the long term care provider community today initiated an aggressive TV and print campaign in Congressional districts across the country. The campaign warns that proposed cuts will jeopardize ongoing quality improvements in America’s nursing homes, threaten thousands of local health care jobs, and irrationally return Medicare funding levels to those seen almost a decade ago.

In addition to the newspaper ads, AHCA/AQNHC plans to air TV commercials in their targeted districts. Here’s the text of the commercials:

Why?… would politicians in Washington vote to cut Medicare for our most vulnerable seniors?… cutting $2.7 billion in vital funds for skilled nursing care. It’s wrong. Slashing billions will jeopardize quality, threaten thousands of health care jobs, and return Medicare funding to levels of almost a decade ago. Call Congressman [Name], tell him to stop the cuts, and to stand up for the quality skilled nursing care [State]’s seniors need. Time is running out.

So you might wonder exactly who these two groups are. Well, here’s how they describe themselves. According to the AHCA website, the AHCA “represents nearly 11,000 non-profit and proprietary facilities” and the AQNHC is a “coalition of 16 national skilled nursing providers.” In other words, this campaign has ostensibly been launched by two organizations that represent the owners of nursing homes.

But here’s where the story goes sideways. When the CHAMP Act came to a vote, 220 Democrats and five Republicans voted in favor of it. So these two supposed industry groups have announced that they will be targeting the following members of Congress in their districts:

Arizona: Rep. Harry Mitchell; California: Rep. Jerry McNerney; Connecticut: Reps. Joe Courtney, Chris Murphy; Florida: Reps. Tim Mahoney, Ron Klein; Georgia: Reps. Jim Marshall, John Barrow; Indiana: Reps. Joe Donnelly, Baron Hill; Kansas: Rep. Nancy Boyda; Minnesota: Rep. Tim Walz; New Hampshire: Reps. Paul Hodes, Carol Shea-Porter; New York: Reps. John Hall, Kirsten Gillebrand, Mike Arcuri; Ohio: Rep. Zack Space; Pennsylvania: Reps. Jason Altmire, Joe Sestak, Patrick Murphy; Wisconsin: Rep. Steven Kagen.

Now, when I looked at the list of Congressional members this group was targeting, I couldn’t help but notice that they were all Democrats and mostly freshmen. In fact, only the two Congressmen from Georgia, Jim Marshall and John Barrow, are incumbents. But due to a redistricting maneuver in 2005 by the Georgia state legislature, they both barely won their races in 2006. In fact, Barrow won by a mere 864 votes, Marshall by 1,752.

Hmm… freshmen and highly vulnerable incumbent Democrats. I thought I’d go over to consult Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball and found a pretty striking similarity between his list of “Potentially Vulnerable Democratic House Seats in 2008” (the 28 candidates who won their 2006 races with less than 55% of the vote) and the list of Congress members being targeted by AHCA/AQNHC. I’ve copied his chart and added an “X” for those Representatives who are being targeted by the AHCA/AQNHC.

Congress Member District Vote % AHCA/AQNHC Target
Joe Courtney CT 02 50.02 X
John Barrow GA 12 50.30 X
Patrick Murphy PA 08 50.30 X
Jim Marshall GA 08 50.55 X
Tim Mahoney FL 16 50.97 X
Steve Kagen WI 08 51.07 X
John Hall NY 19 51.22 X
John Yarmuth KY 03 51.24
Carol Shea-Porter NH 01 51.32 X
Dave Loebsack IA 02 51.43
Nancy Boyda KS 02 51.77 X
Ron Klein FL 22 51.92 X
Jason Altmire PA 04 51.93 X
Harry Mitchell AZ 05 52.05 X
Baron Hill IN 09 52.37 X
Leonard Boswell IA 03 52.74
Tim Walz MN 01 52.81 X
Chris Carney PA 10 53.04
Kirsten Gillibrand NY 20 53.10 X
Jerry McNerney CA 11 53.27 X
Paul Hodes NH 02 53.61 X
Melissa Bean IL 08 53.63
Julia Carson IN 07 53.76
Heath Shuler NC 11 53.79
Joe Donnelly IN 02 53.98 X
Ciro Rodriguez TX 23 54.24
Peter Welch VT AL 54.44
Mike Arcuri NY 24 54.52 X

The only Congress members who have been targeted by AHCA/AQNHC who do not appear on that list are Zack Space (OH-18), Chris Murphy (CT-05) and Joe Sestak (PA-07). But look what other list both Space and Sestak DO appear on.

Why, yes, it’s Karl Rove’s hit list. In fact, of the 20 Democratic seats targeted by Karl Rove, 14 of them have also been targeted by AHCA/AQNHC.

Here’s where the story gets REALLY interesting. You see, there are two Congressmen whose names appear on all three of these lists: Jim Marshall and Baron Hill. They are Numbers 2 and 15 of Sabato’s most vulnerable Democrats; they are both targeted by Karl Rove; and they are now being subjected to a full-on media onslaught in their districts calling them out for “voting to cut Medicare for our most vulnerable seniors.” But there’s one really big problem: They both voted AGAINST the CHAMP Act.

But there’s more. In 2006, Christopher Shays (CT-04) won with 51.71% of the vote, making him Number 17 on Sabato’s list of most vulnerable Republican incumbents. Shays is also one of the five Republicans who voted in favor of the CHAMP Act. But the AHCA/AQNHC has made nary a peep in Shays’ district.

So in summation, the AHCA/AQNHC has targeted 22 vulnerable Democrats for voting in favor of the CHAMP Act, including two who voted against it, while totally ignoring the five Republicans, including Shays, who voted in favor of it. And we’re supposed to believe that they have no blatantly partisan agenda? Meanwhile, FEC records show that the AHCA has reported zero in independent expenditures from 2006 to the present. Sheesh, you’d think there’d be some kind of law against this sort of behavior.

UPDATE:  Per babaloo in the comments, a slight correction on two of the targeted Dems:

My mistake was in assuming that the list of targeted Dems was for negative advertising. Turns out that AHCA/AQNHA has actually targeted Hill and Marshall for a positive campaign.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t answer the question of why they are attacking only vulnerable Dems who voted for the CHAMP Act and not Republicans who supported it…

Thanks to babaloo for the update on that. — CHS

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