America's Agenda: Health Care for Kids

Union-Pharmaceutical Coalition Praises Democrats

Click here to listen to the Louisiana ad

Update 9/16/08: Here's a new twist on this campaign. America's Agenda also has cookie-cutter ads up supporting the Republican incumbent senators in Oregon and Maine. Union-funded groups have run ads to help Democrats beat those incumbents, but here you have unions joining in a coalition to help the Republicans. We're perplexed.

A new advocacy group, run by union leaders and the pharmaceutical industry, is running ads praising Democrats in hot Senate races for supporting a children's health insurance program.

The group, America's Agenda: Health Care for Kids, gives a boost to Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), the only endangered Democrat incumbent in the Senate, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO), who is running for Senate. The ads praise all three for voting to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which passed Congress but was vetoed by President Bush.

America's Agenda: Health Care for Kids is a nonprofit organization incorporated in August, dedicated to reauthorizing SCHIP. (It's a spin-off of America's Agenda: Health Care for All.) Its president is Doug Dority, who used to lead the United Food and Commercial Workers union. John Flynn, president of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, is on the board.

A bit more odd is that an executive from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America is also on the board — and that the group so far is entirely funded by a multi-million dollar contribution from PhRMA. The prescription drug industry certainly supports SCHIP, but it isn't really known for helping elect Democrats.

The strange-bedfellows coalition is reminiscent of Divided We Fail, an advocacy campaign run by business associations, a union and AARP. But this ad campaign looks a lot more oriented toward helping specific candidates.

It's one thing to support incumbents like Landrieu and Lautenberg. But why drop into a hotly contested Senate race like Colorado's? Let us know if you figure it out.

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