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Industry and Extremists Generate Astroturf Campaign to Disrupt Public Meetings on Health Insurance Reform

August 4, 2009

During the August district work period, Democrats are meeting with their constituents about the health insurance reform and America's Affordable Health Choices Act. Unfortunately, those not interested in health insurance reform are disrupting public meetings and not allowing concerned constituents to ask questions and express their views. Many of these opponents who are shutting down civil discussion are organized by out-of-district, extremist political groups, and industry-supported lobbying firms.

Opposing Medicare and Social Security
New York Times

So-called astroturf (fake grassroots) protestors “expressed opposition not only to the health care plan but also to all government programs, including Medicare and Social Security.”

Threatening Messages
New York Times:

Texas protestors bring sign that displays a tombstone with the name of Rep. Lloyd Doggett.


… much like those angry crowds that populated McCain and Palin rallies last fall (recall 'he’s an Arab'), there is danger in such raw passion… Go to about… the 2:00 minute mark [of the much-watched Lloyd Doggett video] and you’ll find a guy carrying a kid on his shoulders and hoisting a sign with the Nazi 'SS' lettering.


… the GOP has a serious problem… [after the] hanging freshman Maryland Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil in effigy [note the creepily expert knotted noose] with a placard 'Congress Traitors The American [and a word that looks like 'idol']… The event — a rally in Salisbury, Md. on the Eastern Shore — was attended by members of the business-funded Americans for Prosperity…

Disruptions Supported by Special Interests
Washington Post's Plum Line:

Conservatives for Patients' Rights, the operation that's running a national campaign against a public health care option, is now publicly taking credit for helping gin up the sometimes-rowdy outbursts targeting House Dems at town hall meetings around the country, raising questions about their spontaneity…”CPR is the group headed by controversial former hospitals exec Rick Scott that's spending millions on ads attacking reform in all sorts of lurid ways, a campaign that's being handled by the same P.R. mavens behind the Swift Boat Vets.

Wall Street Journal:

Insurers continue to wage an aggressive campaign against Democrats’ proposals to create a public health-insurance plan. America’s Health Insurance Plans has stationed employees in 30 states who are tracking where local lawmakers hold town-hall meetings.

Politico's Playbook:

America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP — the national association representing nearly 1,300 member companies providing health insurance coverage to more than 200 million Americans) is urging the industry's hundreds of thousands of employees to GO TO TOWN MEETINGS WITH MEMBERS OF CONGRESS IN AUGUST TO CONFRONT THEM…

Think Progress has found corporate lobbying money behind the astroturf groups:

The leader of FreedomWorks, Dick Armey…is a corporate lobbyist with a history of directing FreedomWorks to support the goals of his lobbying clients… Armey's lobbying firm represents pharmaceutical companies, such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, that oppose comparative effectiveness research in the health reform plan because such a program may cut into revenue for branded drugs.

Opposing Real Debate
Talking Points Memo and Think Progress report on a memo outlining tactics to disrupt meetings rather than debate:

You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep's presentation. Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep's statements early… The goal is to rattle [the representative]…stand up and shout out… Look for these opportunities before [the representative] even takes questions.

Republican Leader Encouraging Disruptions
The website of Republican Leader John Boehner applauds and links to clips of disruptions and promises “a long, hot August for Democrats in Congress.”

Democrats Prepared for a Real Conversation
As opposed to astroturf reform opponents, Democratic Members of Congress will continue to talk about the benefits about health insurance reform. Successful, informative constituent meetings are being headlined by Democrats across the country:

Northwest Indiana Times, 8/4/09:
Inside the Westchester Library Service Center it was standing-room only as more than 100 people packed in to hear U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky’s public forum on health care reform… Visclosky said the attendance was promising and the energy refreshing. “I’m pleased with the turnout. Too often people don’t turn out for public debate, whether we’re all going to agree or not,” Visclosky said. “It’s great to see such interest, and the apathy I saw five years ago is gone.”

Orange County Register, 8/2/09:
About 300 people from throughout the county got together Sunday and prayed for affordable health care in a… prayer vigil, held at St. Callistus Catholic Church… about the national health-care reform package that is being debated now… Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, the guest of honor, said she supports universal health care…

Mid-Hudson News Network, 8/4/09
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. John Hall (D-NY) repeatedly used one phrase in common: “Get it right”… [at a] roundtable of St. Francis Hospital officials, chamber of commerce officials, business owners and citizens.

Get more information on the facts of health reform legislation>>