Brooks in radio ad crossfire over Insure TN

A group supporting Gov. Bill Haslam in his efforts to win legislative approval of a modified Medicaid expansion plan is defending state Rep. Kevin Brooks in radio ads after the Bradley County Republican was attacked for supporting the proposal by a group opposing the governor’s efforts.

The radio ads both declare dislike of Obamacare, the increasingly popular name for the Affordable Care Act that generally has been unpopular in polling of Tennesseans.

The difference is that Americans for Prosperity, opposing Haslam’s “Insure Tennessee” proposal, says the governor’s program amounts to backing the Obamacare “disaster.” Coalition for a Healthy Tennessee, supporting the governor’s proposal, says that Haslam is “standing up against Obamacare.”

The Brooks-focused ads echo contentions in statewide radio and direct mail advertising by both groups and the general lobbying of Republican state legislators in advance of the special legislative session on whether to adopt Insure Tennessee. The session starts Feb. 2.

Brooks was the first legislator to be individually targeted for criticism by AFP. A spokeswoman for the group indicated that other Republican legislators supporting Haslam may soon get similar treatment.

“Just last year, Rep. Kevin Brooks and other Tennessee conservatives voted for the ‘Stop Obamacare Act’ to prevent Obamacare from destroying Tennessee’s budget,” begins the AFP radio ad, referring to a 2013 bill requiring legislative approval for expansion of Medicaid in Tennessee.

“But now Brooks is urging fellow legislators to vote for Obamacare. Kevin Brooks promised to fight against Obamacare. Now he’s fighting for it,” the ad continues.

“Why is Kevin Brooks betraying us? Obamacare has been a disaster for our country and expanding Obamacare in Tennessee would be the same.

“In just two years, when the so-called free federal money runs out, hundreds of thousands of our families, our friends and our neighbors will lose coverage,” the ad narrator declares.

The radio ad from Coalition for a Healthy Tennessee, a group set up by the business groups and health care organizations to back the governor, responded Friday with an ad that begins thusly:

“Time and time again, Bradley County has rejected the Obama agenda and his Obamacare plan. That’s why Gov. Haslam is introducing Insure Tennessee, a conservative, market-based health care reform plan to cover hundreds of thousands of hard-working Tennessee families, veterans and seniors.”

“Unlike Obama, Haslam is delivering true health care reform with no new taxes and no new state government spending,” the ad narrator says. “That’s great news for families, better news for taxpayers.

“But now, our state representative, Kevin Brooks, is under attack by outside groups for standing with Gov. Haslam and his conservative Tennessee alternative to Obamacare.”

The ad urges listeners to call Brooks and “thank him for standing with Gov. Haslam, standing with Bradley County, standing up against Obamacare.”

Brooks told the Chattanooga Times-Free Press that he was surprised by the AFP attack ads because he hasn’t yet taken a position on Haslam’s proposal. And House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, while declaring he “wholeheartedly” supports AFP‘s “core principles” and opposes Medicaid expansion, issued a statement saying attack on Brooks — and perhaps other Republicans — amounts to “jumping the gun” and “dishonest scare tactics.”

Responding to Casada’s comments, AFP Tennessee Director Andrew Ogles said in an email:

“We appreciate Caucus Chairman Glen Casada taking a stand against Insure Tennessee because it is in fact Obamacare. However, AFP as a nonpartisan organization will continue to hold members accountable regardless of their political affiliation for promises they made to their constituents. … If you are supporting Insure Tennessee or pressuring other members to do so, you are supporting Obamacare. We will continue to educate Tennesseans to the truth.”