Free Speech and Attacking Social Security

Applying lessons from some of the history below, up top:

  • Regardless of the individual views of ordinary Republicans as citizens, the national party apparatus of the GOP has never ceased trying to undo Social Security;
  • The GOP-and-finance-sector daisy chain indicated below, potent as it has been in some elections, is dwarfed by current use of the federal budget deficit as a pretext to gut Social Security.

As to the budget deficit, Think Progress posted a good overview of the size of U.S. military spending. Genuine, sober-minded fiscal conservatives would be looking there for cuts.

Instead, the self-proclaimed deficit hawks of the right have, for at least the past twenty years, taken other political routes:

“USA Next,” a political interest group formerly called “United Seniors Association,” targeted seniors by hiring the same people who made the infamous Swift Boat ads of the 2004 election to make ads attacking the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) in 2005. The hiring was reported in the New York Times Feb. 21, 2005:

“Taking its cues from the success of last year’s Swift boat veterans’ campaign in the presidential race, a conservative lobbying organization has hired some of the same consultants to orchestrate attacks on one of President Bush’s toughest opponents in the battle to overhaul Social Security.

“The lobbying group, USA Next, which has poured millions of dollars into Republican policy battles, now says it plans to spend as much as $10 million on commercials and other tactics assailing AARP, the powerhouse lobby opposing the private investment accounts at the center of Mr. Bush’s plan.”

As we know, the plan of private (Wall Street) investment accounts as a substitute for Social Security went nowhere. Public opinion of the plan was one problem; of Mr. Bush another; of Wall Street and the stock market a third.

But the campaign launched against Social Security in the blatant Bush years did not actually end.

“Though it is not clear how much money USA Next has in hand for the campaign–Mr. Jarvis will not say, and the group, which claims 1.5 million members, does not have to disclose its donors–officials say that the group’s annual budget was more than $28 million last year. The group, a membership organization with no age requirements for joining, has also spent millions in recent years vigorously supporting Bush proposals on tax cuts, energy and the Medicare prescription drug plan.

“So far, the groups dueling over Social Security have been relatively tame, but the plans by USA Next foreshadow what could be a steep escalation in the war to sway public opinion and members of Congress in the days ahead.” [emphasis added]

Make that years, and you’ve got yourself a prognostication.

As so often happens in these matters, the epicenter of evil in the known universe was northern Virginia, the hidey-hole of those gummint-hatin’ redneck-exploiting good ol’ boys who do their best to turn elections into foreordained conclusions while simultaneously turning the world of finance into a rodeo:

“To help set USA Next’s strategy, the group has hired Chris LaCivita, an enthusiastic former marine who advised Swift Vets and P.O.W.’s for Truth, formerly known as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, on its media campaign and helped write its potent commercials. He earned more than $30,000 for his work, campaign finance filings show.

Officials said the group is also seeking to hire Rick Reed, a partner at Stevens Reed Curcio & Potholm, a firm that was hired by Swift Vets and was paid more than $276,000 to do media production, records show.

For public relations, 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, the publisher of “Unfit for Command,” a book about Senator John Kerry’s military service whose co-author was John E. O’Neill, one of the primary leaders of Swift Vets.”

Chris LaCivita, for now somewhat submerged, is the political consultant perhaps most notable for making an anti-John Kerry ad that even Fox would not air. His firm LaCivita Consulting LLC is located in Richmond, Va.; his Advancing Strategies LLC in Midlothian. Stevens Reed Curcio is in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Alexandria, Va., as is Creative Response Concepts, Inc. Republicans for Choice (former advisor, Pres. Gerald R. Ford) and its PAC are or were headquartered at the same Eisenhower Avenue address, along with least one federal contractor, Logistics Applications, Inc.

As ever, an uneasy coalition of silk-stocking Wall Street-leaning Republicans, barking-dog demagogues, and the Christian right rubs shoulders together financially while fighting internally for market share, with the sincere losing every fight.

Filings for Creative Response Concepts during the Bush years were available only for 2000 and 2004—election years. Company basics: 2760 Eisenhower Av Ste 402, Alexandria, VA  22314; Pres. Gregory Mueller, Chairman Leif E. Noren, Dir. Justin D. Dudley, Dir. Curtis J. Herge.

Herge was also Registered Agent (RA), the person legally empowered to receive mail and papers for the firm. Herge’s previous business at 8201 Greensboro Drive, is located in McLean, Va., along with the more recent Elm Street address c/o Herge, Sparks & Christopher LLP, now partly morphed into the more respectable Sparks & Craig LLP.

Creative Response Concepts (CRC) had another location at 1150 S. Washington St, Alexandria 22314, where one of its neighbors was the International Brain Injury Association, which also keeps turning up in the same neighborhoods, the American branch of the association at 8201 Greensboro. (Herge is now in private practice as an attorney.)

The Virginia corporate database system listed only one officer for Stevens Reed Curcio & Potholm, RA Greg Stevens. (Stevens died in 2005 at age 58.) Stevens Reed began filing in August 1993, suggesting that its raisonne d’etre, or anyway its donor base, was connected to the hated Clinton presidency. The firm’s web site listed Greg Stevens as founder and president, with partners Rick Reed, Paul Curcio, and Erik Potholm. Potholm’s clients have included Wal-Mart, former congressman Tom Davis, and health insurance company Anthem BCBS. Anthem has since merged with WellPoint, where GWBush uncle William H. T. Bush was a director. Clients of Betsy Vonderheid, Director of Advertising, included Vornado Realty.

The entity names, be it noted, have changed with some frequency over the years. But the key personnel kept being re-mixed. Before the Bush years, Greg Stevens had already surfaced in connection with an entity called “Citizens for the Republic Education Fund,” which in 1996 raised some $2 million for GOP interests through a public relations campaign. As reported by the Annenberg Center, the tax-exempt group was among other things a client of Triad Management Services, with Stevens as a consultant. ‘Citizens’ was incorporated in D.C. by Lyn Nofziger June 20, 1996. Contact information included Angela Buchanan–sister of sometime pundit and presidential candidate Pat Buchanan–6862 Elm St, Ste 210, McLean 22101.

In 1995 Stevens worked with another likeminded group, this one called “Coalition for Our Children’s Future,” also with hdtrs address at 8201 Greensboro Drive, McLean. One of the political consultants working for the Coalition was Houston-based Denis Calabrese. The source of the funds ($700,000) for the 1996 ads was kept confidential by agreement with the donor. J. Curtis Herge was also listed as a principal in the ‘Coalition,’ which began in 1995 but went dormant until weeks before the 1996 election and then ran ads–apparently without the knowledge or consent of some principals–spending $4 million in 1995 and over $700,000 in 1996.

The Coalition for Our Children’s Future is among almost innumerable entities listed as ‘Terminated’ in the Virginia state database system: former address 7704 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church 22043; Robert P. Odell Jr, P/T; J. Curtis Herge, Secretary. Herge was also given as the RA, current at the 6862 Elm address, old at the 8201 Greensboro address (as of 10-23-97). Annual reports were filed through 2001; the firm dissolved apparently owing the Commonwealth of Virginia $35 (“Fee delinquent”).

It should be obvious from the numbers included above that such networks developed sub rosa in the nineties, reached mega-proportions in electoral influence in 2000 and 2004, went farther than ever—unsuccessfully—in 2008, and will, to say the least, try again (on steroids) in 2012. Referring to this mutual-back-scratching, one-hand-washes-the-other, one-face-to-the-public and another-to-each-other fundraising and propaganda mill populated by slick lobbyists and corporate mouthpieces as “free speech” is like using some sort of code to which only a selected few have been given the key.

Meanwhile, the fact that groups with names like ‘coalition for children’s future’ turn out to be aimed against organized labor—and to be funded by interests invested in destroying organized labor–goes almost completely unreported in the political press in the nation’s capital.

Until it’s too late.

To be continued

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