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Overview:

 
Social Security Choice.org (SSC)

Stated Purpose:
Dedicated to giving workers the option to voluntarily place their payroll taxes in personal retirement accounts.

Tax Status:
501(c)(4)

Political Orientation:
Republican

Profile:
September 2004 — Social Security Choice.org (SSC), a group that favors allowing people to funnel their Social Security withholdings into personal retirement accounts, ran 60-second radio spots right up to Election Day, favoring four Republican candidates involved in hotly contested races.1

The advertisements, which had "cookie cutter" scripts customized to individual candidates, warned that the Social Security system was on a path to bankruptcy if it was not fixed, and added that each Republican candidate "understands this urgent need," and he or she is "taking action to save the system."2 3

Despite the proximity of its communications to Election Day, and SSC's choice to praise candidates in tight races, the group reported zero political expenditures to the IRS in 2002.4 Thus, the group represented to the IRS its advertisements were not intended to influence the outcome of elections.5 That claim seems particularly dubious in the cases of two of the four candidates that SSC praised (Steve Pearce of New Mexico, and Suzanne Haik Terrell of Louisiana) because they held no federal office at the time and, thus, were in no position to take action on Social Security policy.

SSC's leaders are closely connected with two other ideological Washington non-profits: the Cato Institute and U.S. Term Limits.

SSC principals and consultants include the Cato Institute's president, a senior Cato fellow, a member of Cato's board of directors, the director of a Cato project on Social Security privatization, and an adviser to Cato's Social Security project. They include Stephen Moore, president of the conservative 527 group Club for Growth, who is on SSC's board of advisers and on Cato's board of directors. SSC's leaders also include three members of the board of directors of U.S. Term Limits, with whom SSC shares office space. At least four SSC principals and consultants work for investment firms.6

Although SSC bills itself as a grassroots organization, the group received the vast majority of its funding in 2002 -- 96.8 percent -- from 16 donors who each gave $5,000 or more.7


1   Public Citizen's analysis of data contained in the New Stealth PACs database. Data collected from groups' Web sites and annual tax forms, press reports, academic papers on activities of independent political groups and interviews by Public Citizen research staff.
2   Public Citizen's analysis of data contained in the New Stealth PACs database. Data collected from groups' Web sites and annual tax forms, press reports, academic papers on activities of independent political groups and interviews by Public Citizen research staff.
3   "Social Security Choice.org Launches Ad Campaign in Georgia," Social Security Choice.org Press Release, Oct. 29, 2002.
4   Social Security Choice.org 990 form, 2002.
5   IRS Form 990 Instructions, Line 81, 2003. (Available at www.irs.gov.)
6   Public Citizen's analysis of data contained in the New Stealth PACs database. Data collected from groups' Web sites and annual tax forms, press reports, academic papers on activities of independent political groups and interviews by Public Citizen research staff.
7   Social Security Choice.org 990 form, 2002.



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