Seeks 'Games' to Slam Bush on Social Security

By Kathleen Rhodes | July 7, 2008 | 8:30 PM EDT

( - The liberal political activist group is sponsoring a contest to come up with the best interactive online game or animation bashing President Bush's Social Security reform proposal. This is the same group that last year asked Americans to submit television ads criticizing the president and then posted at least two entries on its website that compared Bush to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.

One critic of the group said has a track record of "deception."

Eli Pariser, cultural director of the political action committee, held a conference call briefing Wednesday to discuss the group's latest contest, "Bush in Thirty Seconds." Pariser said the goal is to "find the best online animation, game, or application that best explains what's wrong with the [Bush plan]."

"We knew ... that Bush and his allies at Progress for America and USA Next were going to be putting up massive sums of money to spin their Social Security plan," Pariser said.

"We knew that the key demographic here was younger folks. So, we were thinking about how we could uniquely contribute to this debate ... [and] naturally turned to our strength at using the Internet to galvanize public opinion and reach a lot of people," he added.

Pariser insisted that President Bush's Social Security reform proposal, which would include optional private accounts, is losing popularity. "We also discovered as time when on that the more the public knew about it, the less they liked it," he said.

Tom Matzzie,'s Washington director, said the president is having difficulty persuading average Americans about the benefits of his proposed changes to the retirement system. "In town hall meetings across the country, there was a lot of opposition to these ideas," Matzzie asserted

Pariser said he believes's contest and the winning entry will draw more public attention than the efforts being launched by organizations supporting the president's plan.

"The format that we're doing this in is something called 'Flash,'" Pariser explained. He described 'Flash' as "an interactive medium, which means that the user can enter in information or numbers ... [and] do games." He said the Flash could be easily "spread" from person to person.

"Up against USA Next, we feel like this really has a shot because TV ads are essentially a push medium and they're a medium that a lot of people don't like," Pariser said. "We're hoping we can beat that with a medium that really draws people in and entertains them and engages them, that educates them rather than yelling at them."

Pariser also promised a "great panel of celebrity judges" who would "help draw out talent, get people to submit and also help us get young folks interested in the results of the contest." The judges include cartoonist Aaron McGruder, actor John Cusack, film director Richard Linklater, radio talk show host Al Franken, and columnist Arianna Huffington.

David Keating, executive director of the Club for Growth, sees the contest as another attempt by to misinform the public.

"I think it achieves a way for them to continue getting misleading information out to people," he told Cybercast News Service Wednesday. "MoveOn has already been branded ... as running misleading ads about Social Security, so I wouldn't trust anything that they put up on the issue as being accurate or fair," Keating said.

" is, if anything, a liberal leaning organization, and even they said that MoveOn's ads were deceptive and misleading," Keating said.

He conceded that's contest idea is a good one. "As a way of getting information out, the concept's a good one. I think contests are a good idea," Keating said.

However, Keating disputed the claims that Bush's plan is losing popularity. "I think the more people understand about the plan, as opposed to misunderstanding the plan, the more people either go into neutral about it or get enthusiastic about it," he said.

"I think a lot of the younger workers would like the concepts that Bush is talking about, not dislike them," Keating continued. "They give younger workers more choice, and more independence from feckless politicians who might get elected 20, 30,40 years down the road who'll be deciding what happens with their Social Security benefits."

Keating said even members of would like Bush's plan if they examined it more closely. "A lot of the MoveOn people say there ought to be more freedom, there ought to be more choice and that's what Bush is talking about with the Social Security plan," he explained.

The Club for Growth plans to continue sponsoring media advertising in support of the president's proposed changes, Keating said. "We've already run TV ads and last week we were discussing a design of an Internet ad program as well."

As for the contest, according to Pariser, the deadline for submitting entries is March 25, after which time "we'll select 50 semi-finalists," he said. The public will then get the chance to vote from among the choices between April 4 and April 9, with the winner being announced on April 13.

Tom Matzzie indicated this would not be the end of's fight. "The Bush administration has obviously shown great capacity to stay focused. So MoveOn members will stay involved as long as Social Security is in the crosshairs of the Bush administration," he said.

Telephone calls seeking comment from USA Next, the group to which Eli Pariser referred, were not returned. USA Next bills itself as an alternative to AARP and is supportive of the Bush Social Security reform plan.

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