Jeanne, MoveOn.org seems to be threatened by the RNC in this article...
RNC asks stations to kill 'false TV ad'
MoveOn.org defends accuracy of Social Security spot.
By JAMES WENSITS
Tribune Political Writer
SOUTH BEND -- At least part of the Social Security debate focused on the 2nd Congressional District again Friday, as the Republican National Committee sent letters to local television stations asking them not to air what it calls a "false TV ad" promoted by MoveOn.org.
Washington, D.C.-based MoveOn.org immediately issued a statement defending the accuracy of its ad, which began airing on local stations Tuesday and which is critical of the president's plan to revamp Social Security.
The RNC letter drew a mixture of responses. One local station executive said he viewed the tone of the letter as "threatening." Another said he planned to investigate a statement in the ad and might decide to pull the spot if he found it to be misleading.
The national ad, titled "Working Retirement," debuted on local stations Tuesday.
"It has come to our attention that your station is currently airing, or may be asked to air, a false advertisement sponsored by a political organization known as MoveOn.org," said the RNC letter sent to local stations on Friday.
"The advertisement in question falsely and maliciously makes reference to 'George Bush's planned Social Security benefit cuts of up to 46 percent to pay for private accounts ...' "
In his State of the Union address, the president said that "Social Security will not change in any way" for Americans 55 and older."
The RNC letter said that "what MoveOn.org calls 'Bush's planned Social Security benefit cuts' is actually a plan that would hold starting Social Security benefits steady in purchasing power, rather than allowing them to nearly double over the next 75 years as they are projected to do under the current benefit formula."
The letter was signed by RNC Deputy Counsel Michael Bayes.
Jim Behling, general manager for WNDU-TV, said he is neither afraid nor cowed by getting a letter from a lawyer at the RNC, but may pull the spot if he determines that it is inaccurate. The ad contract calls for the spot to end its run on Sunday, according to Behling.
"It's about what's fair," said Behling, adding, "If we made the wrong decision based on insufficient information, then we have to correct ourselves."
Behling said he has reviewed documentation supplied by MoveOn.org in support of the ad, and said the 46 percent figure seems to apply to people who will retire in 2075, and therefore haven't yet been born.
He said he plans to ask MoveOn.org if the 46 percent "applies to anybody living today" and, if not, may decide to pull the spot.
According to supporting documents supplied to the stations by MoveOn.org, the plan which serves as the model for the president's proposal would cut benefits because it changes the basis on which benefits would be calculated from wage levels to consumer price levels.
Based on Social Security Administration data, a worker born in 1977 who earned average wages and retired in 2042 would see benefits 26 percent lower than under the current benefit structure, $14,432 a year instead of $19,423 in 2004 dollars. An individual who retired in 2075 would receive monthly benefits 46 percent lower than under the current structure, the documents said.
Tom Matzzie, Washington, D.C., director of MoveOn.org, said in a statement issued Friday that the information referred to in the spot is based on an analysis performed by the chief actuary at the Social Security Administration, and said his organization stands by the ad.
"Instead of threatening TV stations and trying to infringe on the free-speech rights of MoveOn.org," said Matzzie, the administration should "come clean" and explain how big benefit cuts will be for future retirees, how much new debt will be required and how much financial services corporations will profit from the proposal.
Kevin Sargent, vice president and general manager for WSJV-TV, said he viewed the RNC letter as threatening.
The last two paragraphs of the letter said:
"As an FCC licensee, you have a responsibility to exercise independent editorial judgment to oversee and protect the integrity of the American marketplace of ideas, and to avoid broadcasting deliberate misrepresentations of the facts. Such obligations must be taken seriously and I urge you to decline to broadcast this advertisement.
"This letter places you on notice that the information contained in the above-cited advertisement is false and misleading. Your station should act responsibly and refrain from airing this advertisement."
"When a letter says 'this letter places you on notice,' " Sargent said, "that's kind of threatening."
Sargent said the letter didn't say that the RNC intended to go after the station's license, but "that kind of tactic is done to make you think it's possible."
Asked if he planned to pull the ad, Sargent said he had just begun to investigate, noting, "It's Friday afternoon."
Sargent said that in the meanwhile, he did not plan to suspend the ad, which is scheduled to run through Monday.
Todd Schurz, president and general manager of WSBT-TV, said it is not the role of the station to make political judgments, and to do so would be "grossly inappropriate."
"Our role is to be sure that the laws and regulations are followed and that the public has access to its own airwaves," Schurz said.
Schurz said the station began an investigation after receiving the RNC letter Friday afternoon but did not know when it would be completed.
"These things take a little time," Schurz said, adding that there was no intent to suspend the ad in the meantime. The spot is scheduled to run through Monday on WSBT-TV, whose parent company, Schurz Communications, also owns The Tribune.
"Behind every great fortune lies a great crime."
Honore de Balzac
"Democrats work to help people who need help.
That other party, they work for people who don't need help.
That's all there is to it."
~Harry S. Truman