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FOX promoting pro-Bush seniors group USA Next
Media Matters
February 25, 2005

FOX News has repeatedly hosted representatives of USA Next, a conservative lobbying group formerly known as the United Seniors Association (USA), who have come on the network to attack the AARP, a chief opponent of President Bush's plans to privatize Social Security. Among USA Next's claims articulated on FOX are that the AARP is "the world's largest left, liberal lobbying organization in the world" that is "definitely against traditional values." USA Next's chairman and chief executive, Charles W. Jarvis, and its national chairman, entertainer Art Linkletter, have appeared on FOX News three times in the past ten days. But despite the fact that the group has spent millions of dollars to support Republican candidates and policies, was founded and is currently led by prominent Republicans, and is advised by Republican consultants, FOX News did not identify USA Next as Republican -- or even conservative -- in any appearance by Jarvis or Linkletter.

Founded by conservative activist Richard Viguerie, USA was among several advocacy groups he set up 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. USA's "board and executives consist entirely of direct-mail experts and people active in conservative causes," the Times reported, and noted 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," according to a July 13, 1995, Washington Post article, which called USA "an organization that is more sympathetic to the Republican plans than most others."

The Center for Responsive Politics describes USA as an organization that "has ties to the Republican party. Its president and CEO, Charles Jarvis, once worked for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. 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."

In its guise as a seniors' organization, USA has lent support to a multitude of Republican initiatives. According to a March 16, 2001, Dallas Morning News report, USA launched a $2 million radio ad campaign in support of President Bush's tax cuts. An April 19, 2002, USA press release titled "Seniors Deplore Senate Loss of ANWR Vote" expressed the group's "disappointment and dismay at the Senate's vote against" drilling for oil in Alaska. A June 4, 2003, USA press release "urged House Democrats and Republicans to join together to pass H.R. 760, the Partial Birth Abortion Ban of 2003." USA has also consistently made pointed political attacks on Democrats; its press releases (which are no longer available on USA's website) have such titles as "Seniors See Senator Daschle as Roadblock to Economic Recovery," "Democrats Doom Prescription Drugs for Seniors," "Senate Democrats Still Putting Politics Over People," and "Estrada Vote a Sign of the Great Liberal Deathwish?"

USA's current incarnation, USA Next, has maintained its Republican ties. As Media Matters for America has noted, the New York Times reported on February 21 that USA Next hired consultants who previously worked with Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (now Swift Vets and POWs for Truth) to "orchestrate attacks" as part of USA Next's $10 million campaign against the AARP. According to the Times, one consultant is Chris LaCivita, who earned more than $30,000 advising the Swift Boat Veterans' media campaign attacking Senator John Kerry. Media Matters has previously detailed how Tom Synhorst, chairman of the political strategy firm DCI Group, for which LaCivita has worked, was connected to a smear campaign against Senator John McCain (R-AZ) during the 2000 South Carolina Republican presidential primary. The Times article also reported that USA Next "has turned to Creative Response Concepts, a Virginia firm that represented both Swift Vets -- the company was paid more than $165,000 -- and Regnery Publishing," publisher of the anti-Kerry book Unfit for Command, co-authored by Swift Boat Veterans co-founder John E. O'Neill. The group is "seeking to hire" Rick Reed, a partner at a firm paid more than $276,000 to do media production for Swift Boat

Fair and balanced? You decide.