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Rhode Island

Pharma Pumps Big Money Into Ad Campaign

The ads by America's Agenda: Health Care for Kids may seem like fuzzy thank-you notes to members of Congress for supporting the State Children's Health Insurance Program. But no one spends this kind of money just to say thanks.

The industry association Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America has dropped $11.3 million into the ad campaign, according to a new filing by the group. That pays for a lot, including ads supporting senators running for reelection including Gordon Smith (R-OR), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Max Baucus (D-MT), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Jack Reed (D-RI), as well as Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO), who is running for Senate. There are even more ads praising senators not up for reelection and members of the House.

The legislators benefiting from the complimentary ads were chosen because they voted for a bill expanding the children's insurance program (which was vetoed by President Bush) but are under pressure to abandon that support, according to a spokeswoman for America's Agenda.

"We felt these were the ones that needed to be told to continue to support SCHIP," said Nicole Korkolis. "It's a call to action."

The organization is a business-labor coalition, so it's a bit novel that some ads praise Republicans that unions are opposing and others support Democrats that pro-business groups hope to oust. For example, one of the America's Agenda's board members is the head of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers. That union helps fund American Rights At Work, a pro-labor group running ads against Republicans Smith and Collins, among others.

Korkolis, though, says this has nothing to do with elections. "It's a coincidence that it's during the election cycle," she says. "We're not trying to support candidates in their races."

Can't hurt though, less than seven weeks before Election Day.