The super right-wing fringe who have taken over our democracy have declared war on Social Security — and USA Next, a “front group” for radical conservatives aiming to destroy Social Security, has led the fight with bigoted, hate-filled ads. Why? They want to take down a major source of opposition – the AARP. So this group is set up to look like an alternative. If you’re a hardline retired Republican, it might appeal to you. But think about what they are all about.
Guess who they hired to publize their efforts? The familiar hatchet-men that ran the Swift Boat smear campaign against John Kerry. Their new ads will target the AARP, a group that millions of seniors rely on to defend their interests. You surely remember their internet version – using a photo of a same-sex marriage without permission and trying to imply the the AARP and its members were unpatriotic or somehow had an agenda about sexuality. This is sheer propaganda from the right – and it is very damaging. In August 2003, Health and Human Services fined United Seniors over half a million dollars for deceptive mailing practices, including misleading senior citizens into believing that United Seniors’ solicitations were official government communications. This is the organization your mom or grandmom are going to listen to on tv and hook up with? Not if I have anything to say about it.
We must stop this.
The petition will be delivered by local DFA Meetup groups to every TV station that tries to air the USA Next attack ads. Feel free to contact your networks yourself as well. I expect to see lots of ways to do so collectively – but there’s always the appeal of a personal touch…or a letter to the editor.
BlogPac has a nice long report on the group.
According to Tom Hughes from Democracy for America, “USA Next isn’t the only player — it is just one of dozens of entities that funnel money from corporations and right-wing billionaires into our political process. They have pledged to spend whatever it takes to dismantle Social Security. Their latest project: producing distorted polls to generate news coverage and “evidence” of support for their privatization agenda. It’s part of a coordinated effort by corporate interests and conservative ideologues to wage a multi-front war on Social Security. Fox News, of course, featured the results of the biased poll. But so did other news outlets — they need to be put on notice that they will be held accountable for airing USA Next’s distortions.”
Hold your media outlets accountable to you and to the facts. Even the dominated Senate is opposed to what USA Next would like to see – a privatized Social Security plan that requires deep benefit cuts and a massive increase in debt. The so-called liberal AARP caved to the Medicare plan last time around – I personally don’t think they are fighting hard enough for their members’ interests. This group, having seen how successful nastiness can be, is more interested in framing any competitor in terms of hate rather than in terms of what will most benefit their ostensible “clients.” Myself, I wouldn’t want to be in a seniors’ group that gets a huge chunka change from drug companies – a wee touch of conflict of interest there?
You can sign the petition here
Some information on USA Next
A descriptive article from USA Today
Jarvis’ group ran 19,800 TV ads last year supporting conservative causes and plans a similar campaign this year demanding that AARP “stop scaring seniors.”
Legendary conservative activist Richard Viguerie founded USA in 1991 to “bombard the elderly with tens of millions of solicitations, generating millions of dollars in fees for his private companies,” according to a November 12, 1992, New York Times report. Far from a grassroots seniors organization, USA’s “board and executives consist entirely of direct-mail experts and people active in conservative causes,” the Times reported, and that the organization had been criticized by members of both parties for “preying on vulnerable old people with statements that distort the problems facing Social Security and Medicare, especially by exaggerating the threat to current retirees.”
In 1995, USA worked with discredited Republican pollster Frank Luntz to craft a controversial memo on Medicare that referred to older Americans as “pack-oriented” and “susceptible to following one very dominant person’s lead” [Washington Post, 7/23/1995]. In 1998, then-Senate Finance Committee chairman Sen. William Roth (R-DE) described USA mailings that “told millions of senior citizens recent changes in Medicare posed a threat” as “a serious mistake. Roth added: “We are not here to try to scare senior citizens with respect to their health care” [Las Vegas Review-Journal, 2/27/1998]. In 2001, the Social Security Administration Office of Counsel to the Inspector General proposed a $554,196 fine against USA for mailing “at least 554,196 solicitations in envelopes that misused the Social Security Administration’s program words and/or letters in violation of section 1140 of the Social Security Act.” The Department of Health & Human Services Departmental Appeals Board imposed the fine in 2003.
Furthermore, Washington Monthly reported in May 2004 that “during the 2002 elections, with an ‘unrestricted educational grant’ from the drug industry burning a hole in its pocket, the group [USA Next] spent roughly $14 million — the lion’s share of its budget — on ads defending Republican members of Congress for their votes on a Medicare prescription-drug bill.” Other estimates vary, but all indicate that USA spent significant amounts on targeted advertising in support of Republicans during the 2002 congressional elections. The Associated Press reported that USA “was the nation’s biggest spender on political TV ads, paying nearly $9 million for ads mainly supporting Republican candidates.” The Center for Responsive Politics noted in December 2003: “Last year, the group reportedly spent $17 million to run political ads in tight congressional races.” The center also noted that USA “made $66,000 in PAC contributions during the 2002 election cycle, all to Republicans.”
Before joining USA Next in 2001, Jarvis worked for both the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. The Center for Responsive Politics reported that USA Next “has ties to the Republican party. … Other staff and board members worked as lobbyists for the Republican Party, are former GOP congressmen, or worked for conservative organizations such as Focus on the Family.
Judge grants Temporary Restraining Order against USA Next in anti-gay anti-AARP ad lawsuit
There was news today in the $25 million lawsuit of a gay couple whose image was stolen by USA Next and used in a high-profile ad campaign attacking the AARP’s position on social security legislation. In Washington, DC today, US District Judge Reggie Walton (an appointee of President Bush (41)) granted the gay couple’s request for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against USA Next. The TRO requires USA Next to cease and desist from further use of the couple’s photos for any purpose.