Perriello Health Care Vote Sparks Television Ad War

By: Jennifer Black Email
By: Jennifer Black Email

November 18, 2009

Congressman Tom Perriello's office in Charlottesville has been the site of several 'thank you' rallies and several other anti-health care reform protests in recent weeks.

Now, with the TV ad war heating up, the back and forth outside Perriello's office is matched on the airwaves. Groups on all sides of the issue are buying advertising time on WCAV and other TV stations in central Virginia. All you have to do is turn on the TV to see the debate playing out on your screen.

An ad from the United States Chamber of Commerce attacked Perriello and other Democrats thought to be in vulnerable districts.

"Washington is thanking Tom Perriello for his yes vote on health care, but what does it mean to you? Yes to $500 billion new taxes and over $1 trillion in new government spending, yes to a government-run health care plan and skyrocketing health care costs."

Groups backing the Congressman's vote are hitting back. A response ad scheduled to hit TV screens soon is funded by Americans United and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

"Insurance companies know the reform bill would stop them from raising premiums and stop them from denying coverage when you're sick. And the reform bill will strengthen Medicare, that's why it's endorsed by the AARP. Call congressman Perriello, tell him not to back down, tell him to keep fighting for us."

Let's break down the two commercials.

In the Chamber ad, you see the banner about a Washington Post story and "New Mandates on Virginia Business." The problem is, the only mention of a mandate is in a quote from a Republican group. The ad suggests it is the conclusion of a Washington Post journalist, but that is wrong.

The Chamber ad also says Perriello is "Wrong for Virginia." Critics are saying the ad is taking a stand on Perriello's re-election, which is not allowed under federal campaign laws. However, the Chamber responded by saying the ad is a "call to action" and not a "call to vote."

With those two exceptions, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ad against Perriello doesn't say anything that has not been in previous ads. In fact, one unbiased expert called it "an in-bounds attack on Perriello's position."

As for the pro-Perriello ad, it has fewer facts to check. For example, it's too early to say whether the bill would stop premiums from going up or protect Medicare. Plus, it is true that the AARP endorses the measure.

However, opponents of the ad say there is more to that endorsement than meets the eye. They say AARP is in favor of health care reform because its insurance arm will benefit if the bill becomes law.

What we can say for certain is that the television advertising war over health care is not slowing down, and TV viewers in the 5th Congressional District are caught in the crossfire.

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