Union Leader Offers Free Publicity To Americans For Prosperity's Anti-Obamacare Campaign
Blog ››› ››› DANIEL ANGSTER
The New Hampshire Union Leader ran a story promoting the conservative organization Americans For Prosperity's (AFP) misinformation campaign against the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without mentioning major factual concerns with AFP's campaign.
The September 10 news story highlighted JustExemptMe.com, which is a website run by Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire (AFP-NH) to allow New Hampshire residents to sign a petition asking to be exempted from provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The article pushed the myth that Congress is exempt from the Affordable Care Act while only citing the state director of AFP-NH as a source for the piece:
AFP-NH said the administration has given exemptions to numerous groups, including members of Congress, labor unions and employers in House Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi's congressional district.
"When the unions came to the President to ask for an exemption from ObamaCare, he gave it to them," said Greg Moore, AFP-NH state director.
"When members of Congress said they needed a subsidy, he gave them one. When big insurance companies said they needed relief from a cap in out-of-pocket costs in ObamaCare, the President obliged.
The Union-Leader article is just a reformatted version of a press release issued on September 10 by Americans for Prosperity. Yet by repeating those talking points in its news section, the paper legitimizes the message of an indefensible organization that has a partisan agenda, and aids its campaign to manipulate politicians and media coverage of the ACA.
Financed by the billionaire Koch brothers and run by former Enron consultant Tim Philips, AFP is one of the leading anti-Obama advocacy organizations. By holding rallies and producing advertisements, AFP aims to spread misinformation to sway public opinion against the ACA. At a recent AFP New Hampshire rally, William O'Brien, a candidate for New Hampshire's 2nd Congressional District, provided an example of the inflammatory remarks promoted by AFP (emphasis added):
"[The ACA is] a law as destructive to personal freedom and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850," O'Brien said, "that allowed slave owners to come to New Hampshire and seize African-Americans and use the federal courts to take them back to slave states."
AFP is also considered to be a leader in "astroturfing," the practice of building fake grassroots campaigns to support corporate interests by providing paid organizers, free transportation to rallies, and talking points to people willing to attend rallies. However, AFP has a well documented history of promoting misleading, false, and manipulative information to the public. As The Washington Post recently reported, AFP seeks to "[s]pread as much confusion and dishonesty about the [health care] law as possible":
Here's a little tale that neatly reveals the real game plan of Obamacare opponents: Spread as much confusion and dishonesty about the law as possible, with the explicit goal of preventing Americans from realizing what benefits it carries for them.
The conservative group Americans for Prosperity is up with a new radio ad ... that decries the law as an impending disaster. Yet when you unpack the ad it's actually more revealing about the strategic game plan behind this sort of political attack than it is about the law itself.
FactCheck.org took a look at a previous version of this ad, and pronounced the claim that "we can't pick our own doctor" under Obamacare to be false. What's more, the invocation of a preexisting condition is a particularly audacious move in an ad that attacks a law that bans discrimination against people with preexisting conditions.
This neatly underscores the game plan behind ads like these: spread confusion about the law -- in a deliberate effort to prevent folks from learning what's actually in it -- while simultaneously citing confusion about the law as evidence that it's a disaster in hopes that folks will give up on it.
The promotion of AFP's message and clear falsehoods about the Affordable Care Act in the Union Leader's news section raises concerns about the publication's ability to accurately convey real facts to its readers and not spew misinformation.