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Lawmaker says health care ad distorts and hurts

By Charles Babington
Associated Press Writer / March 17, 2010

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WASHINGTON—A Pennsylvania lawmaker whose parents recently died of cancer is among the targets of an ad campaign by a conservative group that questions congressional Democrats' interest in preventing the disease.

Democratic Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper said she was outraged by the ad, part of a widespread campaign in 18 Democratic districts to defeat a proposed overhaul of U.S. health care. Two independent fact-checking groups said the ad contains serious distortions.

Dahlkemper called for the ad to be pulled. But its sponsor, Americans for Prosperity, has refused.

The ad urges lawmakers to vote against the health care legislation pending in Congress. It is identical in each district until the end, when it shows the photo and name of the local representative and urges constituents to contact him or her.

In Dahlkemper's case, the ad stung personally as well as politically.

"In the past month, I've lost both my parents to cancer," she said in a statement. "It's truly disgraceful for outside groups to then attack me for not being tough enough on cancer."

Dahlkemper, who voted for the House's health care bill in November, said she is a longtime supporter of cancer prevention.

The ad features a breast cancer survivor who criticizes a federal advisory panel's recommendations that some women postpone routine mammograms until age 50.

The pending bill in Congress specifically rejects that recommendation. But the ad strongly suggests otherwise. "What are your odds if the government takes over your health care?" says the woman in the ad.

The nonpartisan group Factcheck.org denounced the ad for its "sheer number of falsehoods." Politifact, another independent group, gave the ad its lowest rating for truthfulness and accuracy: "Pants on Fire."

Americans for Prosperity spokeswoman Amy Payne said the ad is appropriate to the current debate because it "is based on an overarching concern about a stronger government role in health care."