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Bombs Away

The Hill reported yesterday that the Employment Policies Institute, a “non-profit research organization” that’s been around since the mid-90s, is planning a $10 million media campaign over the next two months to defeat health care reform. The ads, featuring a former CBO director talking about how much the bill will add to the deficit, will run in six states represented by centrist legislators. “After what the House did, it was pretty clear that this whole debate is getting out of hand,” the institute’s director, Rick Berman, told the paper.

Who’s Rick Berman? The name might sound familiar—he’s one of the most notorious corporate hitmen in the business, serving as executive director for a whole slew of “non-profits” that bash unions and argue that things like mercury and high-fructose corn syrup aren’t actually that bad for you (he received the Rachel Maddow treatment last month). The groups themselves might be non-profits, but they’re all managed by Berman’s lobby shop, which receives the lion’s share of contributions made to those groups. The Employment Policies Institute is headquartered at the same address as Berman and Co., and IRS filings from 2007 show that the firm received over $900,000 in fees—but because EPI is technically an educational 501c3, the money is tax-free, and donors are not disclosed. So who’s footing the bill for that ad campaign? We may never know.

Of course, that’s just one side of the barricades. Over the next couple months, media markets all over the country will be blanketed with ads targeting legislators for voting both for and against healthcare reform, in an echo of the TV campaign that raged over the last big attempt to kill reform (the Harry and Louise series cost $12 million). If you live in blue dog America, might want to dig a bunker.