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“Clamor Grows in the Privatization Debate”
WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 - Introduced as a "single mom" from Iowa, Sandra Jaques was cool and confident as she praised President Bush's plan to partly replace Social Security with private savings accounts.
"I have a daughter at home. Her name is Wynter," said Ms. Jaques, sitting a few feet from President Bush at the White House economic conference on Thursday. "I want to make sure that she has Social Security when she retires as well."
Mr. Bush chimed in a moment later. "One of my visions of personal savings accounts is that Sandy will be able to pass her account on to Wynter as part of Wynter's capacity to retire as well."
The exchange was an example of how Mr. Bush promotes his agenda with testimonials from "regular folks," in the words of Joshua B. Bolten, the White House budget director, who introduced Ms. Jaques.
But Ms. Jaques is not any random single mother. She is the Iowa state director of a conservative advocacy group, FreedomWorks, whose founders are Jack F. Kemp, the former vice-presidential nominee, and Dick Armey, the former House Republican leader.
Ms. Jaques also spent much of the past two years as a spokeswoman in Iowa for a group called For Our Grandchildren, which is mounting a nationwide campaign for private savings accounts.
Her path to the stage was engineered by another advocate for private accounts, Leanne Abdnor, who previously organized a business coalition in Washington called the Alliance for Worker Retirement Security.
"Sandy is the perfect person to explain the benefits of this for women," said Ms. Abdnor, who has founded another group, Women for a Social Security Choice.
Ms. Abdnor said she had raised start-up money from friends, whom she would not identify. She said the group would wage a publicity campaign to counter groups that oppose private accounts.
Armies of lobbying and advocacy groups are mobilizing on both sides, with "alliances" and "coalitions" forming almost every week.
The New Century Alliance for Social Security, a loose coalition of 100 organizations, including the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and the National Organization for Women, is raising money to battle Mr. Bush's plan.
The senior citizens' lobbying group AARP is gearing up its own campaign to preserve traditional Social Security benefits.
Mr. Bush and his supporters argue that Social Security faces a financial crisis that is best met by letting people divert some of their payroll taxes into personal savings accounts in exchange for lower guaranteed benefits. Opponents say privatization would do nothing in itself to reduce the financial problems and would undermine the concept of a secure retirement.
Supporters of the president's plan have assembled scores of organizations, small and large. Some of their money comes from wealthy individuals, but much of it comes from corporations and industry trade associations.
The Alliance for Worker Retirement Security, started by Ms. Abdnor in the late 1990's at the behest of the National Association of Manufacturers, now includes powerful industry lobbying groups. The alliance has close ties to the White House. Ms. Abdnor was succeeded at the alliance by Charles Blauhaus, now an architect of Social Security policy on Mr. Bush's National Economic Council. "The power of our group rests on its Washington cache," said Derrick Max, the alliance's executive director.
Support for overhauling Social Security also comes from numerous self-described grass-roots organizations: For Our Grandchildren, which employed Ms. Jaques as a director in Iowa; SocialSecurityChoice.org, backed by pro-business political groups like Club for Growth; and USANext, a Virginia-based group run by Charles Jarvis, a former Reagan administration official.
Mr. Jarvis, who recently changed his group's name from United Seniors Association, said that it had $28 million in annual revenues and that he aggressively sought contributions from industry: "Health care companies, energy companies, the food industry, just about everybody except for financial investment companies."