A Democratic Senate candidate is trying to intimidate television stations into dropping an anti-Obamcare ad produced by Americans for Prosperity – a new tactic that critics warn has grave implications for free speech.
Attorneys for Representative Gary Peters (D-MI), who is running for U.S. Senate, sent a letter to the station manager of a Michigan TV outlet demanding that the station pull an anti-Obamacare political advertisement. The ad claims that a Michigan housewife with leukemia had her health insurance canceled because of Obamacare and that her “out-of-pocket costs are so high it’s unaffordable.”
The Washington D.C. law firm of Perkins Cole claims in the letter that the ad, entitled “Julie’s Story: It’s Time to Listen,” sponsored by Americans for Prosperity (AFP), does not offer evidence that the Affordable Care Act rendered Julie Boonstra’s healthcare plan “generally unaffordable.” The letter supports its withdrawal demand by citing the conclusion drawn by a Washington Post editorial: “A Hard Hitting Anti Obamacare Ad Makes a Claim That Doesn’t Add Up.” The Washington Post piece contends that Ms Boonstra’s savings in reduced premiums alone will likely match her “maximum annual out-of-pocket expenses.”
The law firm included in the letter a reminder to the station that they have a “duty” to demand factual evidence from AFP. Moreover, unlike ads for federal candidates, political organizations do not have a “right to command the use of broadcast facilities.” Furthermore, the letter points out that the station bears responsibility for the content of the ad when granting AFP access.
The letter warns that failure by the station to “prevent the airing of false and misleading advertising” can result in the station’s loss of license. Also, the attorneys requested that AFP provide evidence of the claims made in the advertisement.
In the ad, Ms Boonstra blames Obamacare for the loss of her healthcare insurance. Julie says that “she believed the President when he said that she could keep her healthcare.” Moreover, Julie states in the AFP ad, Congressman Peters'” decision to vote for Obamacare “jeopardized” her health. Although Julie has obtained Obamacare insurance with lower monthly premiums, her out of pocket expenses may put her in a situation in which she will not be able to afford to pay her doctors.
AFP-Michigan State Director Scott Hagerstrom issued the statement ripping the move by Peters.
“The fact that Representative Peters would sic his legal team on a Michigan mother battling cancer to muzzle her tells you everything you need to know about his record of putting politics over people,” he said.