February 23, 2005

Group Makes Pre-emptive Strike Against AARP on Benefits Plan

By GLEN JUSTICE and DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
NY Times

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 - USA Next, a conservative group planning a campaign attacking AARP over its stance on Social Security and other issues, ran an Internet advertisement on Monday linking the group to support for same-sex marriage.

The advertisement, which ran briefly on The American Spectator Web site, had two pictures, one of an American soldier that was crossed out and the other showing two men in tuxedos kissing each other and carrying a check mark. The advertisement carried the slogan "the real AARP agenda."

Officials at USA Next said the advertisement was a test, but maintained that they planned to attack AARP, the powerhouse lobby for older Americans, on the issue of same-sex marriage. AARP is a significant opponent of President Bush's Social Security plan.

"We are going to be revealing areas where the AARP is out of touch with a large number of their members, including the issue of marriage," Charlie Jarvis, the group's chief

 

executive, said in a statement. "We will engage AARP with an aggressive campaign to educate the people about where they really stand on the issues and how out of touch they are with the large majority of their own members."USA Next plans to attack AARP with television commercials in coming weeks intended to discredit it on Social Security. USA Next has hired consultants who worked for Swift Vets and P.O.W.'s for Truth, which made headlines last year for its attacks on Senator John Kerry's record in the Vietnam War .

Nancy Thompson, a spokeswoman for AARP, said it had not taken a position on same-sex marriage. In Ohio, the organization opposed an amendment to the state's Constitution that banned such marriages, but only because the second clause blocked legal recognition of any union, potentially including unmarried heterosexuals, that approximated marriage rights, Kathy Taft-Keller, state AARP director said. Voters approved amendment.

David M. Smith , vice president of policy for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, said, "These groups think that the debate on any issue can be dismissed by bringing up gay marriage. We're probably going to see the cancellation of the N.H.L. hockey season blamed on gay marriage next."




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