A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Friday, February 25, 2005

The Criminal Conduct of the New Swift Boat Smear Artists

Yesterday Josh Marshall turned up a very interesting fact about USANext the so-called "charitable organization" [actual status 501(c)4] behind the scabrous ad campaign against AARP for its stand on Social Security privatization: they were fined one-half million dollars for repeated and flagrant mailings with the intent to deceive seniors into believing that their propaganda was official mail from the Social Security Administration.

The "charity" of USANext appears to consist largely of fundraising to send out more fundraising mail, which funds even more fundraising mail, (For example, $5.3 million collected in 1993, of which $4.2 million went back into newly mailed envelopes) and, not incidentally, enriches its founder, Richard Viguerie, for his services rendered, whatever they may be.

These swimming-in-cash, flacking, bozos have hired the same consulting firm for the Social Security fight that was used by the Swift Boat Liars. They also, appropriately, have as a stuffed and pickled figurehead of a "National Chairman", the former television host, Art Linkletter. Linkletter has been a prominent piece of demented Hollywood wing-nut taxidemy for many years. These days, he may be the most prominent of them, since the two who were more famous than he rode into the sunset of real and clinical dementia.

Here is the substance of the actual judgment of criminal conduct against USANext:

On August 13, 2001, counsel for the Social Security Administration Office of Counsel to the Inspector General (the SSA I.G.) sent a notice to Respondent in which she advised Respondent that the SSA I.G. was proposing to impose civil money penalties against it totaling $554,196. The notice alleged that Respondent had mailed 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 (Act). The notice alleged further that the envelopes sent by Respondent violated the Act by using words and letters specifically covered by section 1140 in a misleading manner.....

More important, the penalties that I impose here are strongly supported by the evidence of this case. I do not find that penalties necessarily should be decided based on a comparison with penalties in other cases. Here, Respondent distributed misleading envelopes which had the potential for causing substantial damage to the integrity of the Social Security program. [emphasis mine--ed.] The penalties that the SSA I.G. imposed reflect that fact......

In theory, the Act would permit the SSA I.G. to at least consider imposing civil money penalties against Respondent totaling more than $3 billion, based on a maximum penalty per violation of $5,000 multiplied by more than 600,000 individual mailings of the proscribed envelopes. Act, section 1140(b).

--Steven T. Kessel, Administrative Law Judge
If you examine the actual decision in detail, it outlines a consistent pattern of flagrantly deceptive mailings--which USANext persisted in continuing--despite clear and repeated warnings from the Social Security Administration Inspector General's office that the mailings were in violation of Federal Law.

I respect very greatly the law-abiding moral integrity of my many conservative friends in the blogosphere. I just wish that the emminence grises behind so much of conservative politics had an equal respect for law and moral conduct as my friends do, the same respect, in fact, that these shady individuals clearly have for money, influence, and power at all costs.

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