CRC, APCO help drive push for Social Security reform

WASHINGTON: Two deep-pocketed supporters of President Bush's plan for Social Security reform scooped up powerful representation in DC last week.

WASHINGTON: Two deep-pocketed supporters of President Bush's plan for Social Security reform scooped up powerful representation in DC last week.

USA Next, a conservative advocacy group, is following in the footsteps of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, an anti-John Kerry group from the 2004 campaign, for its choice of PR and ad agencies.

The group has tapped Creative Response Concepts (CRC), the same conservative Virginia-based firm that represented the Swift Boat Veterans, to launch a campaign attacking AARP for its opposition to Bush's plan. The group is also reportedly set to hire Stevens Reed Curcio & Potholm, the Swift Boat Veteran's ad agency, for a paid-media campaign.

USA Next is ready to spend $10 million on the effort, said CRC SVP Keith Appell. Its goal is to paint AARP as out of touch with its members on Social Security and other issues, ultimately persuading a million AARP members to leave the organization for USA Next.

The group "is adamant in the belief that AARP doesn't represent seniors as much as it represents political interests," said Appell. "Our focus ... is a full-scale, earned-media campaign that will allow them to take the fight to AARP."

"These issues will be brought to the forefront of our campaign," Appell said. "As AARP members become aware of AARP's positions, they will want to join USA Next."

The ad agency did not return calls for comment by press time.

In a separate agreement, a new alliance of powerful business interests, led by the Business Roundtable and the US Chamber of Commerce, has selected APCO Worldwide to launch a seven-figure effort supporting Social Security reform. Calling itself the Coalition for the Modernization and Protection of Social Security (CoMPASS), the group is eager to ensure

business interests don't end up footing the bill for the US' retirement plans.

"We are mounting a broad-based communications plan designed to support a nationwide education campaign," said Mike Tuffin, VP at APCO. "Everyone's got a stake in the future of Social Security."

Tuffin said the overall message will not pit the young against the old, but instead portray the solution to Social Security problems as generations working together.

CoMPASS' advisory board co-chairmen, former Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK) and former staff associate to Robert Kennedy Sam Beard, will lead the campaign. Both men served on the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security.

Meanwhile, a number of liberal-oriented interest groups have come together to combat President Bush's plans, known as Americans United to Protect Social Security. The group is led by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, and a number of advocacy groups.

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