The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare has dropped three fundraising appeals in Hawaii since the group endorsed U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz over U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in the Democratic primary for Senate.
In two of the mailers, the national seniors' group urges residents to contact Hanabusa and tell her not to privatize or undermine the entitlement programs. In the third, it urges residents to contact Schatz in support of a bill the senator has co-sponsored to expand Social Security benefits.
Max Richtman, the group's president, forcefully complained to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser after the newspaper ran a story about one of the mailers and concluded it implied Hanabusa might privatize Social Security.
Richtman pointed out that the mailers go to other states across the country and insisted that the fundraising appeals were not tied to the primary.
Asked about the most recent mailers, Kim Wright, a spokeswoman for the seniors' group, also said that the appeals had nothing to do with the primary.
"Using that logic the very same letter, using identical language, received in every contested congressional race nationwide must be interpreted differently through a political frame unique to each district? That belies all logic and common sense," she said in an email.
"This is not in any way a political mailing no matter how much you might want to frame it as such.
"If our organization wanted to craft a political message for the Senate race in Hawaii the message would be distinct and clearly define the issues important in this specific race. Clearly, this national letter to citizens from New York to Alaska does not reference the Hawaii Senate campaign in any way whatsoever because it has absolutely nothing to do with the Hawaii Senate campaign."
Schatz has made Social Security an issue in the primary and has cited the group's endorsement as a distinction with Hanabusa.
Hanabusa has accused Schatz and the group of scaring seniors with exaggerated claims about threats to the entitlement programs. Her advisers do not believe that two mailers urging her not to cut Social Security, and one urging Schatz to support a bill he has already co-sponsored, are not part of an effort to undermine her on the issue.
A sample of Richtman's warnings from one of the fundraising appeals:
For more than thirty years, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare has fought and won countless battles to protect and improve these vital programs for current and future beneficiaries.
But in all that time, never have I felt these programs to be in greater danger than they are right now, today.