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Public Citizen Urges FEC to Investigate United Seniors Association (USA)

Aug. 12, 2002

Public Citizen Urges FEC to Investigate United Seniors Association (USA)

Group Charges USA Is Acting as a “Corporate Conduit” to Influence Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? Public Citizen today sent a letter urging the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to investigate whether new “issue” ads being run by the United Seniors Association (USA) violate federal election law.

Virtually identical radio ads running in Minnesota, Missouri and South Dakota promote new tax cuts. Each ad tells listeners to call the U.S. senator in their state who is up for re-election and urge the lawmaker to prompt Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to pass “immediate and permanent tax cuts.” The ads target Sens. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Jean Carnahan ? all Democrats who are widely considered to be vulnerable.

In the letter, Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen?s Congress Watch, wrote that “no such issue [tax cuts] is on the Senate?s legislative agenda” and that the ads “appear to be thinly veiled attempts to influence the outcome of three high-profile Senate races.” Click here to view a copy of the letter.

Creative Media Partners, which produced the ads, includes the Republican National Committee (RNC) as a client. “If USA is coordinating the ads with the RNC and/or the National Republican Senatorial Committee, then corporate donations to USA would be prohibited in-kind contributions,” Clemente wrote. “If USA is using prohibited contributions from corporations, then such electioneering ads violate restrictions on corporate treasury funds being used to influence the outcome of elections.”

A recent report by Public Citizen exposed USA as a hired gun for the drug industry. The report documented that USA spent an estimated $9.6 million over 12 months on ads promoting a drug industry-favored prescription drug plan for seniors. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the drug industry?s trade association, admitted to having given $4.6 million to USA; neither group denied Public Citizen?s allegation that virtually all of the ads were funded by PhRMA. (Click here to view the report.)

“The fact that USA appeared to be a corporate conduit for PhRMA concerns us in that they may be doing the same with these tax ads, which may be funded by PhRMA or by other corporate interests that have an electoral agenda,” Clemente wrote. “Because this appears to be a calculated and coordinated attempt to influence the outcome of this November?s election on behalf of corporate sponsors, we strongly urge the FEC to quickly open an investigation.”