Opinions, Context & Ideas from the TPM Editors TPM Editor's Blog

Courtesy of TPM Reader

Courtesy of TPM Reader ECK, here's the full text of Administrative Law Judge Steven T. Kessel's ruling upholding the half million dollar fine against United Seniors Association, aka USANext, for sending deceptive mailings intended to fool seniors into believing they were official correspondence from the Social Security Administration.

One of many choice quotes, this one on USANext's persistence as a scofflaw: "[T]he SSA I.G.'s enforcement efforts in this case did not spring fully formed from a blank background. There was a long history of discussion between the SSA I.G. and Respondent [i.e., USANext] in which the SSA I.G. struggled vainly to convince Respondent to curb its practices of sending potentially deceptive mailings to senior citizens. Respondent had been warned on several occasions by the SSA I.G. that its conduct verged on violating or violated the Act. It chose to ignore these warnings."

TPM Readers report in

TPM Readers report in from the field <$NoAd$> on Suite 300 ...

Well, since I work near to 3900 Jermantown Rd I decided to walk over there, in the snow, to check it out.

The directory on the first floor does have "United Seniors Association, Inc" as suite 450. And "O'Neill Marketing Company" as suite 300. Neither address bar seemed to be newer than the rest really.

A quick trip to the 3rd floor found that, in fact, suite 300 is just a large suite with many different companies in it. There's a central reception area and hall ways leading to doors with the names of the businesses on them.

The 4th floor had a door labeled "United Seniors Association Inc Suite 450". That's it. I assume that any sort of suite 450A would have had to been inside suite 450, as I did not see any lettered suites while I was in the building.

My best guess is that they split off some time ago and they were slow to update their website.

BP

---

I work near O'Neill marketing, so I took my lunch hour to go check them out. I would call it a case of a mouse roaring. 3900 Germantown Rd is a little four story building near Fairfax City. In the lobby, on the orientation board, O'Neill is listed as occupying suite 300, as are about 25 other organizations. The building didn't look that big from the outside, so I trooped upstairs to check out suite 300. Turns out 300 is an incubator. You know the type: start-ups go there, lease some space, share the cost of paying a receptionist, share the copier, share the coffee machine. I am not demeaning organizations that occupy such places. My former company started at one and is now doing quite well... good way of keeping down overhead. A nice person in the elevator told me that 300 is a kind of "mish-mash" of things; people come and go all the time. USA is indeed listed in 450, but, how can I put this? They aren't welcoming visitors.

DM


The small print on our "Privatize This!" t-shirts reads: "Eyes and Ears on Loan to Talkingpointsmemo.com". So we'll be sending one to both BP and DM.

So whos holding Social

So who's holding Social Security meetings in their district?

Well, in New York state apparently no one with an 'R' after their name.

In This Together is a pro-Social Security coalition in New York (here's a list of the organizations in the group). Alex Navarro is the group's communications director; and he tells me that as near as they have been able to ascertain not one Republican in New York state is holding a meeting this week.

Democrats, lotsa meetings. Republicans, no meetings. Hard to imagine.

One of the things that makes it hard to find out precisely is that Republicans who are holding meetings don't seem too eager to publicize them. And Navarro makes clear that this was what they could figure out "from a round of calls to their offices at the end of last week."

So, if anyone knows different, do let us know. But until we hear otherwise, New York may be the Empire state. But it ain't got no Republican gladiators.

Did they pay up

Did they pay up or slip the noose?

This from an August 2003 bulletin from the Social Security Administration ...

Penalty Upheld Against United Seniors Association, Inc. [aka USANext] for Misleading Advertising

Judge Denies Appeal of $554,196 Civil Monetary Penalty

On August 8, a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Appeals Board Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued a ruling upholding the imposition of a $554,196 civil monetary penalty against the United Seniors Association, Inc. (USA Inc.). The ALJ found that USA Inc. violated Section 1140 of the Social Security Act, which protects Social Security program words and symbols from being used in a misleading manner. Over the course of several years, USA Inc. mailed solicitations to senior citizens in envelopes that appeared to be from, approved, endorsed or authorized by SSA. USA Inc. targeted these solicitations to senior citizens with envelopes that included such terminology as “SOCIAL SECURITY ALERT” in prominent, red type. USA Inc. consistently refused to cooperate with OIG’s compliance efforts over the course of 5 years. Therefore, OCIG proposed the penalty, and the parties had a full evidentiary hearing in April 2003. The ALJ’s August 8th ruling found that: USA, Inc. had “deliberately contravened the law,” the $554,196 penalty was reasonable, and USA’s envelopes created a “serious threat to the ability of the Social Security Administration to communicate freely with the public.” USA Inc. has the right to appeal the ALJ’s decision to the full HHS Departmental Appeals Board.


First-class outfit that Charlie Jarvis is running<$NoAd$>.

(ed.note: Thanks to TPM Reader XM.)

Chris Matthews and Charlie

Chris Matthews and Charlie <$NoAd$> Jarvis last night on Hardball ...

MATTHEWS: Who is O‘Neill Marketing?

JARVIS: O‘Neill Marketing is a list company, a list rental company.

MATTHEWS: And where are they located?

JARVIS: They‘re located in Fairfax.

MATTHEWS: Where are you located?

JARVIS: In the building where we are, yes.

MATTHEWS: How close is their office to your office?

JARVIS: Three floors.

MATTHEWS: Three floors?

JARVIS: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And what is your connection?

JARVIS: No connection at all now. When I first came in, 2001, USA, then known as United Seniors Association, did own...

MATTHEWS: And what is O‘Neill known for, advertising firm?

JARVIS: Basically just direct mail list rentals. That‘s it. They‘re not an advertising firm.


And as long as we're on the subject of USANext, apparently a couple years ago the Social Security Administration had to get a judge to issue a cease and desist order to stop Jarvis's outfit from sending out direct mail intended to "mislead the public into believing the mail is officially sent or approved by the Social Security Administration." That's quite a badge of honor. Are they still under that court order?

Heres the question Im

Here's the question I'm curious about. In this week's congressional recess, who's holding meetings and who's not?

We note that Rep. Thaddeus McCotter's (R) spokesperson says the congressman is spending the break "catching up on paperwork."

Say what you will about Sen. Santorum (R), Archduke of Privatization, but he ain't hiding. He may be getting his head handed to him this week in Pennsylvania. But he's out there making his case to some pretty unfriendly crowds.

But which representatives and senators have simply gone into hiding? And I'd define that as either holding no public forums or holding ones with access restricted to supporters.

USA Today gives a

USA Today gives a run-down on President Bush's courtship of current and former members of the Fainthearted Faction.

A tad more on

A tad more on the 'membership' of the United Seniors Association (USA).

At least as far back as 2002, USA has claimed a membership of 1.5 million.

(There are numerous examples. But just for reference, see National Journal, Dec. 7, 2002 and Newsday, August 4, 2002. An example of the identical claim from the 20th of this month can be found here in the Washington Times.)

Yet if you look at their 2001 and 2002 '990s' (the public tax filing for a 501c4), they list no income from membership dues.

Specifically, on the 2002 form, look on page 3, question 3 ("Membership dues and assessments") and no number is entered. Not even a zero; it's just blank.

Yet in the 2003 filing, on the same line, question 3, they list $1,204,172.00. (The 2003 filing is the most recent available.)

So, in two successive years in which the group claimed the same number of members, revenues from membership fees went from $0 to $1.2 million.

Now, what happened there exactly?

The membership levels purportedly remained the same. So I guess we could posit that membership dues were hiked from 0 cents to, say, 75 cents per annum. But somehow that doesn't sound quite right. So what happened?

Here's one thought that might be worth pursuing.

Remember that these filings are made in the following calendar year. So the 2002 990 was prepared in 2003, and so forth. Now, one thing that happened over the period in question is that United Seniors Association's apparent lack of any real membership started getting attention in the press. In fact, the article in the Washington Monthly I cited yesterday would have appeared about two months before the 2003 990 was filed.

Wow ahhts bold.If youve

Wow, ahht's bold.

If you've been reading this site for any length of time you've probably noticed that we tend to save copies of pretty much everything we refer to on the web since the juiciest stuff tends to disappear pretty quickly.

But O'Neill Marketing Company came up with a switch that really hadn't occurred to us.

You'll remember that last night we noted that O'Neill shared space with the Republican astroturf 'seniors' organization, USANext/United Seniors Association. Both were located at 3900 Jermantown Road, Fairfax, Virginia.

USA listed Suite 450; OMC listed Suite 450A.

But apparently last night was a pretty serious all-nighter for the folks at O'Neill. Because, as of today, they're located not in Suite 450A but (downstairs?) in Suite 300.

Here's Google's version of their 'about' page as it appeared prior to today with the old address and here's new one with the new address.

Late Update: As quite a few TPM Readers have now pointed out, Suite 300 turns out to be an awfully popular place. In fact, as you can see here, there seem to be enough businesses operating out of that suite that suite 300 might need its own trade organization or PAC. Is suite 300 the mailroom?

Did Charlie Jarvis fib

Did Charlie Jarvis fib today on Judy Woodruff's <$NoAd$>show?

Here's how the interview started...

WOODRUFF: First of all, Charlie Jarvis, USA Next, funded by whom?

CHARLIE JARVIS, CHAIRMAN, USA NEXT: We receive our funds from our base of 1.5 million individuals. Also we aggressively go after the support of very strong pro-free market businesses, business groups, associations, we're pretty aggressive about looking for free market supporters.


Unfortunately, Woodruff didn't follow up, and the answer stood.

But is it true?

A May 2004 article in The Washington Monthly says that though ...

USA claims a nationwide network of more than one million activists ... [it] listed zero income from membership dues in its most recent available tax return (emphasis added).


Given the date of the article, presumably the reference is to the 2002 return. And the MO certainly could have changed since then. But I'd say the ball's in Charlie's court.

LiveWire