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Outside Interests Step Up Lobbying Over Health Care

Updated: 4:37 p.m.Just as President Barack Obama and Members of Congress step up their campaigning on health care, grass-roots activists on the right and left are hoping to influence the process with a series of television ads and Washington, D.C., rallies.The conservative group Patients United Now is spending more than $1.5 million over the next two weeks to run ads in several states urging moderate Democratic Senators and Democratic Senators in Republican-leaning states to vote against any health care bill that includes a government-run insurance option. Patients United Now is the 501(c)(3) arm of Patients First, a 501(c)(4) organization.Meanwhile, two liberal groups are scheduled to hold public protests in D.C. On Wednesday evening, the Healthcare Equality Project is set to hold a rally at Freedom Plaza near Capitol Hill, with special guests Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) and an official from the Service Employees International Union.In a Patients First ad that hits next week, Senators will actually be targeted by name. The Senators the organization is hoping to influence are all Democrats who hail from conservative-leaning or swing states.Among the Senators targeted are Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), Finance Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.), Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (N.D.), and Sens. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Evan Bayh (Ind.), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Mark Udall (Colo.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Mark Begich (Alaska).Late Thursday morning, the group Health Care Reform Now will hold a similar event in Upper Senate Park featuring former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and an official from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Both groups are strong advocates of including a government-run insurance option in health care reform.The Patients United Now ad features a Canadian citizen who decided to seek access to health care in the U.S. after becoming dissatisfied with the treatment she was receiving. Shona Holmes claims in the ad that she would have died of cancer had she depended on her government-run health care system.The ad, which the group has run previously, is already on broadcast and cable stations in Arkansas, Maine, Montana, North Dakota and Iowa. On Tuesday, the spot is scheduled in Indiana, Louisiana, Nebraska and South Dakota. The ad is also scheduled to air in Washington, D.C., this week.The overall cost of the run is $983,000.Next week, a new ad targeting specific Senators will hit broadcast and cable stations in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota and South Dakota. These Patients First ads will cost $600,000 and are set to air for the duration of the July Fourth recess.With Obama slowly but surely wading into the fight over health care reform — his No. 1 domestic priority — action in Congress continues apace. The president is scheduled to hold a Tuesday afternoon news conference that is expected to focus at least partly on health care.House Democratic leaders on Friday unveiled the principles of the legislation they intend to push; committee action is set to commence this week.The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is continuing to mark up its bill. The Finance Committee is holding closed-door negotiations on its legislation.

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