USA Next's Jarvis resurfaced to smear AARP

On the September 12 broadcast of James Dobson's Focus on the Family radio show, Charles W. Jarvis, president and CEO of USA Next, alleged that AARP -- a 35 million-member organization that states it is “dedicated to enhancing quality of life for all as we age” and has actively opposed Social Security privatization -- is a “radical” organization that has promoted same-sex marriage and has supported a group that “wants to take the Southwest of the United States and redistribute it to Mexico.” As Media Matters for America has documented, USA Next is a Republican-linked conservative lobbying group that recently conducted a campaign to weaken opposition to Social Security privatization. According to its website, USA Next is a “National Project of the United Seniors Association, Inc., ”which is a “nonprofit nonpartisan organization under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code.”

On Focus on the Family, Jarvis attacked AARP as a “radical” group:

JARVIS: They [AARP] literally are able to give tens of millions of dollars away every single year -- to Planned Parenthood, to MALDEF, which is the Mexican American Legal Defense [and Educational] Fund, which wants to take the Southwest of the United States and redistribute it to Mexico -- that's how radical that group is. And AARP is involved in giving to all sorts of groups like those groups in every single state. In essence, they are a financier for the left.

Jarvis also renewed USA Next's claim that AARP has been a leading supporter of same-sex marriage. In February, USA Next published an online advertisement depicting “The REAL AARP Agenda” as supporting same-sex marriage but not the military. A gay couple whose wedding photo appeared in the ad filed suit against USA Next, charging that the group had used the photo without their permission. USA Next pulled the ad after the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a restraining order barring the group's continued use of the couple's photo.

DOBSON: What also concerns me, Charlie, is the social policy of the AARP. They actually are heavily involved in the fight for same-sex marriage. What in the world does that have to do with seniors?

JARVIS: Exactly right. And why would you do that as an organization like AARP, when most of your members -- probably 80 percent, according to our surveys of AARP members -- disagree completely with your opposition to protecting marriage?

DOBSON: You blew the lid on that.

JARVIS: We did.

DOBSON: And you have really been under a lot of pressure ever since.

JARVIS: We have had three months of the most frightening experiences I've ever had in all of my frightening experiences in politics over the last 30 years, because we had walked into a subject that AARP did not want revealed publicly: that they were a leader in that [same-sex marriage].

Besides its use of the photo without permission, the claim in USA Next's advertisement was highly misleading. USA Next based its contention on AARP's opposition to a 2004 Ohio ballot measure, Issue 1, which not only banned same-sex marriage but also outlawed domestic partnership benefits for all couples. In a statement explaining its opposition to Issue 1, AARP's Ohio chapter claimed the measure would deny numerous benefits to unmarried older couples -- both homosexual and heterosexual:

State Issue One goes far beyond simply defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Ohio already has a law that defines marriage in exactly those terms. State Issue One would prohibit state and local governments from recognizing any legal status for unmarried couples of the same or opposite sex.

State Issue One would deny rights of property ownership, inheritance, pensions, power of attorney and other matters of vital interest to the health and well being of unmarried older couples."

Taking away rights that unmarried older couples need in order to support and care for one another is punitive and unacceptable.

AARP was joined in its opposition to Issue 1 by Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, Attorney General Jim Petro, and Sens. Mike DeWine and George Voinovich, who are all Republicans, as well as the League of Women Voters, Ohio University, and business leaders across the state. Issue 1 ultimately passed with more than 60 percent of the vote.

As The New York Times reported on November 12, 1992, USA Next was founded in 1991 by conservative activist Richard Viguerie to work with four other conservative advocacy groups that “bombarded the elderly with tens of millions of solicitations, generating millions of dollars in fees for his private companies.” On July 23, 1995, The Washington Post reported that USA Next hired Republican pollster Frank Luntz to craft a controversial memo claiming seniors are “pack-oriented” and “susceptible to following one very dominant person's lead.”

USA Next is a Republican front group that backs Republican candidates and issues aggressively and unconditionally, with considerable financial assistance from the pharmaceutical and fast-food industries. Jarvis worked in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations and once served as executive vice president of Dobson's Focus on the Family.