Ad Battle Gets Nasty Over Med-Mal Initiative

October 15, 2004

At the height of campaign ad season, the Oregon Association of Broadcasters has issued a rare warning to television stations about a spot placed by opponents of a measure to limit noneconomic damages in medical liability cases.

The ad alleges that Measure 35 is primarily backed by the insurance industry. But according to a report in The Bulletin of Bend, that’s not true.

Instead, the bulk of the more than $5 million raised to promote the measure has come from the medical industry, mostly doctors, the Oregon Medical Association and hospitals, according to campaign manager Paul Phillips.

Insurers donated some $400,000, or less than 10 percent, he said.

The ad’s wording has now been changed to say insurance companies are big supporters, but not the primary ones.

But No on 35 spokesman Charlie Burr still defends his campaign’s criticism of insurance companies.

“They still contributed a lot of money,” he said. “Insurance companies are targeting the constitutional rights of grievously injured victims.”

Burr said he can name his share of ads he considers misleading and unfair, such as a Yes on 35 ad that claims the only people against the measure are trial lawyers.

Instead, he said a coalition of more than 40 groups including the AARP, labor unions and consumer activists also oppose Measure 35.

But Kelly Stoner, spokeswoman for the Yes on 35 campaign, said her group has run a “truthful” campaign.

She said that includes the ads about trial lawyers.

“This a complex issue and it is important to get the facts in front of voters,” she said.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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