Borrowing a page from an old campaign playbook, proponents of November’s prescription drug pricing measure launched their fall TV ad campaign with a figure familiar to voters: Sen. Bernie Sanders.
In the ads for Proposition 61, which would prevent California from spending more on prescription drugs than the lowest price paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Vermont senator and former presidential candidate suggests the time is long overdue for Americans “to stand up to the greed of the pharmaceutical industry.”
“Proposition 61 is a very, very important step forward,” Sanders says,” describing the measure as a “real blow against this greedy industry that will reverberate all over America.”
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The measure, supported by the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation and its president, Michael Weinstein, has been compared with Proposition 103, the 1988 initiative requiring auto, home and business insurance companies to justify their rate increases. That campaign, led by attorney Harvey Rosenfield, received a celebrity boost from consumer advocate Ralph Nader, by that time a national political figure.
Despite Sanders’ credibility with a large segment of the electorate – he received 46 percent of the vote in California’s Democratic presidential primary – politicians and celebrities can be a mixed bag in initiative campaigns.
Ballot measures are generally pitched as solving a problem politicians are unwilling to touch, so putting an elected official in a TV ad could undermine the citizen-legislator theme Weinstein and company is aiming for.
Other well-known endorsers include former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, labor icon Dolores Huerta and the Rev. Al Sharpton.