Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Scary Primer on the 60-Plus Association

The "60-Plus Association" was AstroTurf before AstroTurf was cool. These kinds of right wing phony groups are a dime a dozen now. 60-Plus is a DC outfit mostly made up of longtime Republican operatives that pretend to be concerned about senior issues. In reality they appear to exist for little more than to help Republicans win elections and to scare the elderly. Witness their large ad buy in Wisconsin this week. True to their form they are running their sleazy brand of scare ads against both Representatives Ron Kind and Steve Kagen. Since Wisconsinites are being forced to view their scare ads, I thought that we should at least get to know them better.

The head of 60-Plus is James L. Martin who has worked in the past for Republican direct mail guru Richard Viguerie. In fact some have seriously questioned Viguerie's various arrangements with 60-Plus over the years. If there is any additional doubt about the real partisan nature of this organization, consider how Martin reportedly bragged in 2000 about being the person that gave then-governor George W. Bush his start in politics. In addition, representatives from 60-Plus were in the room when Karl Rove briefed lobbyists on the Bush administration's plans regarding privatizing Social Security. [See Washington Times, 5/26/00, for the bragging]

The 60 Plus Association has long been a go-to group for conservative causes. Indicted former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff once instructed a Native American tribe to donate to 60 Plus saying, that it would help garner support for their legislative causes with the House GOP leadership.

The 60-Plus Association fancies itself as a right-wing version of the AARP but its IRS filings show that it derives zero dollars from actual membership dues, even though it lists over $1.8 million in revenues. So if they are not getting their money from their nonexistent "membership" then how are they paying to scare Wisconsin's seniors? [60-Plus Association 2008 IRS Form 990]

Some of that question was answered when AARP hired an independent investigator to thoroughly research the phony group and they found that the pharmaceutical industry is actually paying a lot of the bills. The report revealed that in 2001 alone, 60-Plus got hundreds of thousands of dollars from some of the following: the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA); drug companies like Merck, Pfizer and Wyeth-Ayerst, and even from Hanwha International Corp.; which is the U.S. subsidiary of a Korean conglomerate with chemical and pharmaceutical interests. For this reason a Public Citizen report described 60-Plus as being part of "PhRMA's Stealth PACS". [AARP Bulletin Today, "Pulling Strings from Afar", 2003]

There is a wealth of additional material out there about this phony group because they have a long history of being a shameless "fear factory". This blog posting was only meant to be a primer of sorts, so that Wisconsinites can at least know exactly the kind of sleaze that is trying to scare them and why they are doing it.


kevinN said...

Thanks for your posting on 60 Plus. The Annenburg Center wrote on their site that there's no factual support to the claim that Big Pharma is currently behind 60 Plus, not since 2003. Annenberg wrote:" Furthermore, the prescription-drug lobby and 60 Plus were on opposite sides during the debate over the new health care law." Can you comment on this or direct me further?

Pat said...

kevinN - if I remember correctly, big pharma was publicly supporting the affordable care act and privately funding astroturfing organizations to oppose it. I'm not going to look into it, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear that 60 plus was one of those organizations.

Anonymous said...

Pete says, 60+ just got of the phone with me. Typical slanted questions and even more slanted choices. I have been amazed by the guts these people have, thinking that their surveys are to be considered valid. True Rovian politics! Anyone not on to their game can be tricked into giving them the answers they need to hear. Just like the spoiled athlete. Pat me on the back and tell me how Great I am.

Anonymous said...

Three questions into these surveys provide enough awareness that these arent surveys but simply a self-serving way of saying you support their platform or position. ARGH! It's disturbing that Sixty-plus is headed by former appointee of George W. These groups have lead people who at first glance don't appear to have deep political connections while posing to be a watch dog for public interest. UGH!