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Chamber of Commerce: Credit Where It's Not Due

Ads thanking lawmakers for voting for Medicare Bill include four too many.

August 3, 2006

Modified: August 3, 2006

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Summary


The Chamber of Commerce rolled out a $10 million campaign to support 20 members of Congress (3 Democrats and 17 Republicans) for having  "supported the Medicare Part D law, giving seniors a quality drug plan."

However, the group has had to change the ad for three members who were not in Congress at the time of the vote, and pulled the ad for a fourth member who voted for the bill the first time around, but against it the second. That's a 20 percent error rate.

Analysis


On July 27, the Chamber of Commerce kicked off its 2006 election efforts with a $10 million media campaign touting the benefits of the Medicare Part D plan which provides seniors with prescription drug coverage.  The campaign included nearly identical ads in twenty congressional districts thanking incumbents for having "supported the Medicare Part D law" and listing the number of seniors from that state who benefit from drug coverage.

Supports vs. Supported

However, as the Associated Press initially reported , the group changed the ad for two members who were first elected in 2004, and not yet members of Congress when the bill became law in 2003.  Reps. Mike Sodrel of Indiana and Michael Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania are freshmen members who could not have voted on the bill.  After the ads first ran, the word "supports" was substituted for the word "supported."  Brad Miller, political director for the group, told the AP that he stands by the ads because the members backed the program on the campaign trail and during their first years in Congress.

Chamber of Commerce  ad: "Chabot Medicare"

Announcer: Congressman Steve Chabot believes seniors deserve affordable prescription drugs. That's why Chabot supported the Medicare Part D law giving seniors a quality drug plan.  Thanks to Steve Chabot close to 1.5 million Ohio seniors now benefit from drug coverage, saving them an average eleven hundred dollars a year.  A lot of people in Washington talk about improving healthcare.  Steve Chabot is doing something about it. 
Announcer 2: Log onto USChamber.com/medicare   

On August 3rd, the Seattle Times reported  that a similar mistake had been made in ads featuring freshman Rep. Dave Reichert.  Local television stations replaced the original ad with the amended version after receiving complaints.  

Did He Even Vote for It?

The ads had previously garnered media attention the day after their release because a local station in Ohio had pulled ads supporting Rep. Steve Chabot.  As the AP first reported , three Cincinnati-area television stations stopped running the ad at the group's request.    

Chabot's votes on the law are a bit complicated.  He actually did vote for the bill when it first passed through the House in June 2003.  However, when the bill came back after conference with the Senate in November of that year, he changed course and voted  against it.

Chabot is certainly being consistent about his position on the bill since then. In March, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer , the labor-affiliated Working America dispatched automated phone calls in his district telling voters that Chabot backed the prescription drug plan -- much to his chagrin. Chabot didn't want to be blamed then, and apparently doesn't want to be given credit now.       

- by Justin Bank

Sources


Hammer, David, "Business group pulls ads giving Chabot erroneous credit ," AP . 28 July 2006.

Lester, Will, "Chamber of Commerce's ad campaign," AP . 27 July 2006.

Martin, Jonathan, "Ad Backing Reichert edited for accuracy," Seattle Times.  3 Aug. 2006.

Rulon, Malia, "Chabot blasts critics' phone calls to seniors ," Cincinatti Enquirer. 18 March 2006.

Sidoti, Liz, "Chamber of Commerce Alters Ads After Complaints ," AP . 1 Aug. 2006.