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Greetings, comrades: Tea Party SD airs 'over-the-top' Obamacare ad

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MITCHELL, S.D. -- The tea party's stand against Obamacare might be in cease-fire mode on Capitol Hill, but in South Dakota a tea party group has launched a TV ad with the message that the president's health care reform law will turn America into the Soviet Union.

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One veteran political observer calls the ad so over the top that it's destined for the satirical political cable television show "The Colbert Report."

"For a lot of viewers, it would be hard to tell if this is serious or a parody," said Jon Schaff, political science professor at Northern State University in Aberdeen. "Count down until this is on 'Colbert.'"

The ad, sponsored by Tea Party SD, a group headed by activist Allen Unruh of Sioux Falls, features a newscaster speaking in a Russian accent with a stark background. Over his right shoulder is a photo of President Barack Obama. Over his left shoulder is a photo of Vladimir Lenin, the Russian communist revolutionary.

"Greetings, comrades," says the newscaster. "I am your spokesman for Obamacare. I have special message for those of you who are paying for your own medical care, just as you are paying for your own food, housing, your own clothing and automobile, entertainment and so on. This is no longer acceptable. You must become part of collective."

He goes on to say, among other things in the two-minute ad, that requiring Americans to submit personal information to a government database "is a dream come true for people like me."

Unruh does not share Schaff's view that the ad is over the top.

"It's a very good ad. I think it explains what's going on with what's happened to health care today," said Unruh, a chiropractor. "Your private information is out the window."

Unruh said that signing up for health insurance under the new law -- known popularly as Obamacare but officially titled the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- will give the government too much information about American citizens, and he claims the Internal Revenue Service will decide who receives health care.

Schaff said he doubts the ad will convince many voters that Obamacare equals Soviet-era communism. For one thing, some young voters who are a key demographic in the Obamacare sign-up process are too young to remember the Cold War of the 1980s. The Soviet Union dissolved in 1991.

"It is a bit dated. They are using imagery that is going to be lost on certain people," Schaff said. "Frankly, the comparison of Obamacare to the Soviet Union is absurd. And I can put on my anti-government hat as good as most people."

More likely, Schaff said, the ad is designed to raise funds for the Tea Party SD organization from people who already agree that Obamacare is bad policy.

"Most political organizations operate that way, making extreme appeals," Schaff said. "All you have to do is look at the average fundraising letter -- whether it's from Democrats or Republicans. They are always filled with invective. That's because you raise more money by getting people mad and maybe scaring them a little bit than you do out of calm, reasoned arguments."

The ad has been airing since at least Sunday on the Sioux Falls-based TV stations KCPO and FOX affiliate KTTW. It was not initially posted online but was posted as The Daily Republic of Mitchell conducted interviews for this story.

The ad does not directly ask for donations, but it does list information at the end and name Tea Party SD treasurer Ben Van Deest, of Tea.

Unruh said Tea Party SD is not a political action committee and does not raise money for candidates.

He described the group as an "educational nonprofit" but said it is not a 501(c)4, the typical nonprofit federal status for groups doing political activity. He declined to specify what legal framework the group exists under.

The South Dakota Secretary of State's Office did not have a record of the group as either a political group or an organization under the state's business records.

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