Frank Luntz

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Frank Luntz, pollster and political consultant, is president and CEO of Luntz Research Companies, which offers "Strategic Consulting and Message Development," focus groups, surveys and other research for political and corporate campaigns.[1] He is a frequent commentator on Fox News.

Michael Smerconish, in a blog for the Daily Beast, said of Luntz,

Luntz is the wordsmith who coined the term "death tax" to replace the vague notion of an estate tax. In his world, vouchers are better known as "opportunity scholarships" and offshore oil drilling is better expressed as "deep-sea energy exploration." And he's the man who once advised the Bush administration to emphasize the "lack of scientific certainty" in the global warming debate.[1]

Record and controversies

Financial regulatory reform

In January, 2010, Luntz distributed a memo to Republicans with advice on language to use to kill financial; reform legislation before Congress.[2] In the memo Luntz urged opponents of reform to say the legislation is filled with bank bailouts, lobbyist loopholes, and additional layers of complicated government bureaucracy.[3]

"If there is one thing we can all agree on, it's that the bad decisions and harmful policies by Washington bureaucrats that in many ways led to the economic crash must never be repeated," Luntz wrote. "This is your critical advantage. Washington's incompetence is the common ground on which you can build support."

Luntz continued: "Ordinarily, calling for a new government program 'to protect consumers' would be extraordinary popular. But these are not ordinary times. The American people are not just saying 'no.' They are saying 'hell no' to more government agencies, more bureaucrats, and more legislation crafted by special interests."

Health care legislation

Luntz wrote a May, 2009 memo, THE LANGUAGE OF HEALTHCARE 2009[4], to Republicans describing how to use language to kill President Obama's health care reform legislation that was before the Congress. The memo advised Republicans to:
(1) Humanize your approach.
(2) Acknowledge the “crisis” or suffer the consequences.
(3) “Time” is the government healthcare killer.
(4) The arguments against the Democrats’ healthcare plan must center around “politicians,” “bureaucrats,” and “Washington” … not the free market, tax incentives, or competition.
(5) The healthcare denial horror stories from Canada & Co. do resonate, but you have to humanize them.
(6) Healthcare quality = “getting the treatment you need, when you need it.”
7) “One-size-does-NOT-fit-all.”
(8) WASTE, FRAUD, and ABUSE are your best targets for how to bring down costs.
(9) Americans will expect the government to look out for those who truly can’t afford healthcare.
(10) It’s not enough to just say what you’re against. You have to tell them what you’re for.

Global warming

Luntz wrote a memo recommending Republican politicians to say "climate change" instead of "global warming." He also advised, "...you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate."[5]

Reprimands & reputation for falsifying polling results

According to Salon.com, "In 1997, Luntz was formally reprimanded by the American Association for Public Opinion Research for his work polling on the GOP's 1994 'Contract with America' campaign document. Luntz told the media that everything in the contract had the support of at least 60 percent of the general public. Considering the elementary phrasing of that document (stop violent criminals, protect our kids, strong national defense), it seems almost laughably uncontroversial. But one of AAPOR's 1,400 members wasn't so amused, and filed a complaint requesting to see Luntz's research and a verification of the figure. Luntz's response? He couldn't reveal the information because of client confidentiality." [2]

In a March 18, 1999 deposition in the case of Ball v. Philip Morris, et al, Lydia Saad, Managing Editor for the Gallup Organization, stated her organization had reprimanded Luntz for misrepresenting polling information regarding the GOP's "Contract with America." In her testimony, Saad said,

as an [3] organization we formally reprimand[ed] or sent a letter to Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster I believe in 1994. Maybe the grievance was aired in 1995. He had made statements about the public support for various elements in the Contract With America and when asked about the question wording and to ask to see the actual results he failed to produce any documentation, so as an organization we chastised him for not following the practices we espouse that all public pollsters should follow.[6]

Occupy Wall Street

At a session Luntz hosted at the Republican Governors Association in Florida in November 2011, Luntz said he is scared of the Occupy Wall Street movement because protesters are "having an impact on what the American people think of 'capitalism.' At the session Luntz made suggestions to soften the rhetoric of right-wing economic policies and at the same time make policies favored by many occupiers sound harsh or militant. Luntx suggestions include:[7]

  • Don't talk about "capitalism," instead talk about "economic freedom" or the "free market."
  • If you talk about raising taxes on the rich,” the public responds favorably, Luntz cautioned. But ”if you talk about government taking the money from hardworking Americans, the public says no. Taxing, the public will say yes.”
  • On advising GOP politicians to tell protesters they are wasting their time — and that they should focus their anger on the Obama administration: "“You shouldn’t be occupying Wall Street, you should be occupying Washington. You should occupy the White House because it’s the policies over the past few years that have created this problem.”
  • Luntz advised Republicans to be rhetorically empathetic to occupiers: Tell them, “I get it,” he said. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the exact same route President Obama has taken …"

Notable Work

Luntz's other notable work includes:[3]

  • During the height of the war in Iraq, he conducted televised sessions in Cairo, Paris, and elsewhere for MSNBC.
  • In April 2003 Luntz made headlines when a memo - "The Environment: a cleaner, safer, healthier America" - he prepared for GOP leaders on how to win "the environmental communications battle" was leaked to the press.
  • In May 2003 another memo attributed to The Luntz Research Companies and The Israel Project was leaked. It outlined how American Jewish leaders should incorporate the war in Iraq into their public comments about Israel: "Israeli Communications Priorities 2003"
  • In March 2004, Grist magazine reported on an emphatic Luntz memo (PDF) sent out in February 2004 discussing Americans' intense feelings on the subject of water: "Young and old, Democrat AND Republican, the demand for clean water is universal. More importantly, the public is willing to pay for it . An overwhelming majority of Americans - 91 percent - agree that 'if, as a country, we are willing to invest BILLIONS of dollars annually in highways and airways, we certainly should be willing to make the necessary investments in our nation's waterways. '" [The italic and bold flourishes are Luntz Research's own.]
  • "Communicating the Principles of Prevention and Protection in the War on Terror", mentioned on the PBS TV show "Now with Bill Moyers", apparently prepared for the Bush Administration, full of guidance on specific words, phrases, and context to use when talking about the policy of pre-emption and the war in Iraq." This advice included: "No speech about homeland security or Iraq should begin without a reference to 9/11"
  • Media Matters for America wrote a letter to MSNBC urging that Luntz not be included in the station's presidential debate coverage, due to "Luntz's partisan Republican ties and history of questionable scientific methodology." MSNBC did decide to cancel Luntz's participation, two days before the first debate. "I think they [MSNBC] buckled to political pressure," Luntz said. "They caved. . . . Why is it that Democrats are allowed to do this, but Republicans aren't?"[4]
  • Journalist and blogger Joshua Micah Marshall, fact-checking a Luntz claim that "he's done no GOP work since 2001,"[5] describes regular briefings Luntz gave to the House Republican Caucus, at least as recently as mid-2004, and concludes: "Sounds like Luntz provides regular strategy briefings for Republicans and does it, not suprisingly, in part to troll for work."[6] In a subsequent post, Marshall (expanding on others' reports) wrote, "According to the California Secretary of State's website, the Bill Simon (R) for Governor campaign paid Luntz about $80,000 in 2002 and 2003. He also got paid over $25,000 in 2003 by Darrell Issa's recall committee 'RESCUE CALIFORNIA'."[7]
  • A memo titled "The 14 Words Never to Use," which, according to Luntz, was "originally prepared exclusively for Congressional spouses because they are your eyes and ears, a one-person reality check and truth squad combined…However, by popular demand, I have included and expanded that document because effectively communicating the New American Lexicon requires you to STOP saying words and phrases that undermine your ability to educate the American people. So from today forward, YOU are the language police. From today forward, these are the words never to say again." The verboten verbiage includes "government," "privatization," "global economy/globalization/capitalism," and "outsourcing." [8]
  • Another memo titled "The Eleven Steps to Effective Trade Communication," in which Luntz writes, "Americans love being told we’re the best, that we’re number one. We will do anything—ANYTHING—to remain number one, and will oppose anything that undermines our superiority. It is essential in any discussion of trade to declare that we are 'the greatest economic power in the world' and that 'we will remain the greatest economic power in the world only so long as we continue to do business with other nations.'" [9]
  • Luntz has also recently become involved in British politics. He ran a a focus group for the BBC which suggested that David Cameron would win the Conservative leadership election" and later his results were seen as a crucial factor behind Cameron's election. This year he did similar work for the BBC on the Labour Party leadership election- presumed to be happening at some point this year- which found that the Home Secretary John Reid would be more popular than the Chancellor Gordon Brown as the new Prime Minister.
  • The DailyKos reported on May 25, 2006 that it has a copy of an October 2005 memo by Luntz about how to spin the immigration debate. “Americans are not only ready for an overhaul of illegal immigration policy, they are demanding it. It has become such an important issue that many are willing to vote against their traditional party if they disagree with a candidate’s position on immigration reform. Linguistically, as you enter the debate, there are four key themes that must represent the core of your message: prevention, protection, accountability and compassion.” [10]

Notable clients

Among Luntz's notable clients, for his memo on killing financial reform legislation[8]:

– Luntz client Ameriquest Mortgages: The proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) would eliminate predatory mortgages. Ameriquest, America’s “sub-prime leader,” has been prosecuted by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal for inflating property values so borrowers could get bigger loans, imposing upfront fees without reducing interest rates as promised, and intentionally deceiving lenders with hidden penalties and interest rates on final loan documents.

– Luntz clients Merrill Lynch and Bear Stearns: Under proposed financial reform, big banks, like Luntz clients Merrill Lynch and Bear Stearns, would face a new structure designed to police financial products, prohibit predatory ones, and require clear forms and disclosures. The CFPA would also help regulate hidden bank fees and other bank abuses.

– Luntz client American Express: The CFPA would regulate the credit card industry, preventing predatory interest rates and fees.

Background information

In 2005, Luntz sold his firm to the Omnicom Group. He is the chair and CEO of the new firm, which is now called Luntz, Maslansky Strategic Research. [11]

According to his LRC bio, Luntz has worked for "more than a dozen Fortune 100 companies ... from Merrill Lynch to Federal Express, Disney to American Express, from AT&T to Pfizer, from Kroger supermarkets to McDonalds to the entire soft drink and motion picture industries. ... as well as some of the largest business associations, from the Chamber of Commerce to the National Association of Manufacturers to the Business Roundtable."[12]

He also runs The Word Doctors.

Contact info

  • Luntz, Maslansky Strategic Research

1101 King St
Alexandria, VA 22314-2964
703.358.0080

  • The Word Doctors, LLC

1800 Diagonal Road, Suite 600
Alexandria, VA 22314
(571) 299-2050


See also

References

  1. Michael Smerconish A Global Warming Conversion The Daily Beast, Blogs and Stories, February 3, 2010
  2. Frank Luntz, Language of Financial Reform, January, 2010.
  3. Sam Stein, Frank Luntz Pens Memo To Kill Financial Regulatory Reform, Huffington Post, February 1, 2010
  4. Frank Luntz, THE LANGUAGE OF HEALTHCARE 2009, May 7, 2009
  5. Oliver Burkeman, Memo exposes Bush's new green strategy, Guardian UK, march 4, 2003. retrieved Feb. 3, 2010
  6. Deposition of LYDIA KAY SAAD, March 18, 1999, BALL v. PHILIP MORRIS INC., 43 pp. Bates No. SAADL031899. DATTA Collection. At page 66.
  7. Justin Elliott GOP Message Man "Frightened to Death" of Occupy, Salon, December 1, 2011
  8. Wall St Consultant Frank Luntz Pens Memo On How To Channel Economic Anxiety Into Protecting Wall St Abuses, Think Progress, Feb. 1, 2010

SourceWatch Resources

External resources

  • Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts [13] The Independent 27 July 2014

External links

Interviews With Luntz

Columns by Luntz

Book

  • Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear, Hyperion, January 2007. ISBN-10 1401302599 (See an excerpt).

Memoranda

General Articles