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Saturday, March 04, 2006

Day of the Locusts

In January, 2005 Raw Story published a letter sent by Amy Ridenour of The National Center for Public Policy Research to elderly people under the pretense that they were "saving" their endangered Social Security benefits:
"Should we put most of our time and effort into fighting to prevent liberal big-spenders from draining an estimated $100 billion from the trust fund?" Ridenour asks. "Or should I go head to head against the left-wing's reckless use of $70 billion tax surplus when they promised to put our Social Security first?"
It was one of many "scare letters" designed to terrify the elderly. And it worked. According to the San Francisco Examiner:
The letters so distressed Shelby, who is 86 and lives in a senior center, that she often sat up nights, fretting over which crisis most deserved her help. Fearful that her benefits might expire, she regularly responded with small donations.

"I didn't know that I could just turn them down," Shelby said. "I was thinking it was something I had to do. . . . I thought if I didn't correspond about Social Security, I wouldn't get my checks."

Shelby is one of millions of seniors nationwide targeted by so-called "fright mail," computer-generated by self-proclaimed public policy organizations in mostly legal but controversial campaigns to raise cash.


Amy Moritz Ridenour, president of the National Center for Public Policy Research, says that emotional pitches get results, and insists that would-be donors don't want the details.

"It's just that you're competing with a lot of other organizations. People seem to respond better to emotion than they do with letters that have lots and lots of facts," said Moritz, who said her letters were written by a direct-mail firm, Response Dynamics, but read by her before they were sent. "You have to give something that is light enough that people will be willing to read it upon receipt. . . . If they don't read it right at that moment, all the studies show they never will."
In the Ridenour letter printed by Raw Story, she tells her elderly victims that:
Inside your sealed envelope is information regarding the potential collapse of the Social Security system -- and how it can endanger you and the entire United States senior citizen population."

It is also critical that you share this pertinent information ONLY [sic] with other trustworthy individuals.
In other words don't tell anybody who might tell you this is a scam and interfere with our right to fleece you. A typical tactic used by those who exploit children and the elderly.

Raw Story noted at the time that NCPPR were the group that paid $64,000 in travel expenses when Hot Tub Tom went to Moscow in 1997, and over $70,000 for a trip made by DeLay and his aides in mid-2000 to Europe. Oh and they mention that one of the NCPPR's directors at the time was Jack Abramoff.

Suddenly the NCPPR has decided that Raw Story has "violated their copyright" by printing the letters, which is such unmitigated bullshit it's hard to know where to begin. The publication of the letters would be a rather text book case of Fair Use, but the point of the cease and desist email doesn't have anything to do with the merits of their claim (virtually none) -- it has to do with the fact that most small organizations don't have the funds to hire lawyers to battle this stuff so it is easier to comply with the request than to fight it.

You can read the excerpted letters here and here.

There is a bright side to all this -- it gives the story a whole new life cycle, and awakens people to the machinatians of social mange/professional GOP crooks like Amy Ritenour. Who will not doubt be making a more prominent entry onto the Abramoff stage in the near future.

Nice to be able to accelerate her debut.

Update: Pigboy tells us Amy has a blog -- and it is quite possibly the ugliest blog I've ever seen. Funny that.

I wonder -- can you blog from the slam?