Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, the operation that’s running a national campaign against a public health care option, is now publicly taking credit for helping gin up the sometimes-rowdy outbursts targeting House Dems at town hall meetings around the country, raising questions about their spontaneity.
CPR is the group headed by controversial former hospitals exec Rick Scott that’s spending millions on ads attacking reform in all sorts of lurid ways, a campaign that’s being handled by the same P.R. mavens behind the Swift Boat Vets.
In response to my questions, a spokesman for the group confirmed that it has undertaken a concerted effort to get people out to the town hall meetings to protest reform. The spokesperson, Brian Burgess, confirmed that CPR is emailing out “town hall alert” flyers, and schedules of town hall meetings, to its mailing list.
These efforts — combined with CPR’s effort to enlist Tea Party-ers, as reported yesterday by TPM — provide a glimpse into the ways anti-reform groups are trying to create a sense of public momentum in their favor.
CPR spokesman Burgess confirmed that the group had set up a list serv designed to reach out to “third party groups” involved in the health care fight, including the Tea Party activists. And in a statement emailed to me, Scott, who was ousted as a health-care exec amid a 1990s fraud probe, took credit for the town hall showings.
“We have invested a lot of time, energy and resources into educating Americans over the past several months about the dangers of government-run health care and I think we’re seeing some of the fruits of that campaign,” Scott said, though he claimed outrage was spontaneous.
Similarly, America’s Health Insurance Plans, or AHIP, the insurance industry group, has stationed employees in 30 states to track local town hall events.
The question is whether these uprisings are actually helpful to the anti-reform cause, or whether their raucus agitprop will work againt them. Dems have blasted out to reporters examples of protestors harrassing House Dems.
“The more you dig the more you learn that this is a carefully orchestrated effort by special interest lobbyists and the Republican Party, who are using fringe elements on the right to protect insurance company profits and defeat health care reform,” said House Dem leadership aide Doug Thornell. “The anger at these events looks very similar to what we saw at McCain/Palin rallies in the fall.”