From NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan and Carrie Dann
The controversy continues over those anti-Obama mailers paid for by Hillary-backing union AFSCME. As reported by NBC/NJ on Wednesday, the direct mail piece going out in Iowa slams Obama's health-care plan as "yet another Band-Aid solution" that leaves "15 million Americans uninsured." That's the argument made by the Clinton campaign, which has criticized Obama's plan for its lack of a universal mandate requiring coverage for all Americans.
But in a conference call sponsored by the Obama campaign, two AFSCME members -- Henry Beyer, the executive director of Illinois' AFSCME chapter, and Carter Woodruff, a former state treasurer of AFSCME in Iowa -- criticized the mailer on the grounds that AFSCME has had a long-held position against mandates for healthcare.
Beyer said he was "dismayed" to see the direct mail piece. "We've always opposed individual mandates. We were very concerned about the Massachusetts plan," he said referencing the health-care plan passed under Gov. Romney in Massachusetts, which required state residents to purchase health insurance.
Woodruff had harsh words for his international union, calling the mailer a "desperate attempt to attack" Obama and "hypocritical" considering the union's previous stances on mandates. He attributed the attack on Obama's gain in the polls. "Senator Obama has gained with Senator Clinton here in Iowa, and in some polls he was in the lead. Currently they are still neck and neck, and I think they are scared."
The AFSCME flier also caused controversy earlier this week because it quotes Edwards -- not Clinton -- as a critic of Obama's policy. The Edwards campaign yesterday responded by decrying the reference as a misleading attempt by AFSCME and the Clinton campaign to disguise the source of the negative attack.
AFSCME's backing is a key element of Clinton's ground game in Iowa, with its launch of massive independent expenditure efforts and its mobilization of volunteers in the state.