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60 Plus Association

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

The 60 Plus Association is described in an article posted November 1, 2009 on FireDogLake.com as a Big Pharma front group. FireDogLake reported that the group has "ties to the national GOP" and is "almost fully funded by the pharmaceutical industry." The 60 Plus Association is reported to have been a front for Big Pharma since it's inception.[1]

On its Web site, the 60-Plus Association describes itself as a "non-partisan seniors advocacy group with a free enterprise, less government, less taxes approach." They list their main issues as the "death tax" (estate tax), energy, health care and Social Security.[2] 60 Plus is registered as a 501(c)(4) non-profit with the Internal Revenue Service.[3]

In its 2008 annual return to the IRS, 60 Plus states that it "protects the rights of senior citizens through educating and informing them on consumer affairs and financial welfare. The association monitors federal laws affecting senior citizens and makes their views known to decision makers within federal government. Also, the association, through seminars, meetings, newsletters, mailgrams, petitions and letters to its supporters, encourages senior citizens to become involved in taking legislative action by expressing their views on various issues to members of Congress. 60/Plus supporters furthermore exercise their First Amendment rights in various manner by petitioning their government on various issue affecting their economic and social well-being. 60/Plus sponsors seminars, meetings and press conferences with radio, newspaper and television interviewers in Washington D,C and other locations throughout the United States to promote is message of tax fairness to seniors.[4]

However, a February, 2003 report in the AARP Bulletin called 60 Plus a front group for the pharmaceutical industry. The author, Bill Hogan, wrote that 60 Plus, along with Senior Coalition and United Seniors Association, "claim to speak for millions of older Americans, although as recently as 2001 none of the three listed any revenue from membership dues on their tax returns." The article added: "virtually all of their largest contributions in recent years have come from the same source -- the nation's pharmaceutical industry."[5]

60 Plus president James L. Martin claims to have given then-"Texas Gov. George W. Bush his first political job ... way back in 1967." [6] Martin also "credits himself" with coming up with the phrase "death tax," as part of efforts to repeal the estate tax. [7]

In September 2005, 60 Plus was part of a consortium of conservative groups -- along with the National Tax Limitation Committee, American Conservative Union and Americans for Tax Reform -- to call for "a measured response to [Hurricane] Katrina ... and a continuation of sound tax and regulatory policies."[8] Under the banner of the "Tax Cut Working Group coalition," the groups "urged President Bush and Congress to emphasize private sector initiatives in the hurricane relief effort, and not abandon his agenda of tax relief in the wake of the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina." The coalition's open letter on the matter stated, "While Katrina's effects have been vivid and widespread, this event should not serve as an excuse to change national policy priorities, nor to further dissipate the federal treasury. ... On-going tax rate reductions and Social Security reform should not be sacrificed on the altar of Katrina or 'deficit reduction.'"[9]

In a segment on her August 10, 2009 show, Rachel Maddow discussed the 60 Plus Association's ties to the G0P, disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the lobbying group Bonner & Associates"[10]

Contents

Opposing healthcare reform

Television ads claiming that the Obama administration plans to fund healthcare reform on the "backs of seniors" started appearing in August 2009 in California markets, including Los Angeles. The televised ad makes the following claims among others: "Congress plans to cut 500 Billion from Medicare," "Seniors May Lose Their Own Doctors," and "The Government, Not Doctors Will Decide if Older Patients are Worth the Cost," The ad ends by saying "Tell Congress, Don't pay for Health Care Reform on the backs of Our Seniors. They've sacrificed enough." The ads clearly state "Paid for by 60 Plus Association" and display the www.60Plus.org website at the end.[11]

In 2009, 60 Plus also sent out mailings warning "that the proposed Medicare changes will mean 'longer wait times at hospitals and doctors offices, less money for new treatments, restrictions on care, prescriptions and what's best for you -- the patient!'"[12]

60 Plus has rallied against previous healthcare reform efforts. In 1999, it claimed that the Clinton Administration's effort to provide a prescription drug benefit to Medicare beneficiaries" was "socialized medicine." 60 Plus' Roger Zion told the National Journal, "We have the best Medicare system in the world, and these people want to destroy it." He also claimed that the "prescription drug benefit would cripple pharmaceutical research and ultimately undermine the quality of health care in the United States."[13]

60 Plus was a member of "Citizens for Better Medicare," an industry-backed effort opposing Medicare reform that spent tens of millions of dollars on ad campaigns in 1999 and 2000. Other "Citizens" members included the Seniors Coalition, United Seniors Association, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. A "Citizens" press release from September 2000 stressed "the need to add a private sector-based prescription drug benefit to Medicare," rather than a public -- or, as the press release called it -- a "big government plan" that would supposedly cause "many patients and senior citizens [to] lose their current private prescription drug coverage, have their access to the life saving medicine jeopardized by bureaucrats and see important drug research reduced."[14]

Pharmaceutical industry backing

The 60 Plus Association has championed the pharmaceutical industry in mass mailings, press releases, lobbying and law suits since its inception. It was one of three associations that backed the "astroturf" issue ads of Citizens for Better Medicare (a drug industry front group) during the 2000 elections.

In 2002, 60 Plus fought state legislation that would create formularies, or lists of preferred, lower-cost prescription drugs for Medicaid patients. 60 Plus fought "such legislation in Minnesota and New Mexico," with assistance from the Bonner & Associates firm, which specializes in astroturf lobbying. "The firm's paid callers, reading from scripts that identified them as representatives of 60 Plus, urged residents to ask their governors to veto the legislation. Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. later said it had paid Bonner & Associates to make the calls," reported AARP.[5] At the time, 60 Plus president Jim Martin denied "anyone was misled. 'The callers had an outline,' said Martin. 'This is an important issue that impacts people's health.'" [15]

"In its 2001 fiscal year, 60 Plus got a total of $275,000 from PhRMA (the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America), CBM (Citizens for Better Medicare) and three drug companies (Merck, Pfizer and Wyeth-Ayerst) plus another $300,000 from Hanwha International Corp., the U.S. subsidiary of a Korean conglomerate with chemical and pharmaceutical interests -- amounts that made up about 29 percent of its revenue," reported AARP.[5]

60 Plus supported a lawsuit by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America against the state of Maine (in a "friend of the court" brief) for daring to try to pass a law that will authentically reduce prices for Medicare drugs by allowing the state to buy in bulk directly from manufacturers. It has also joined a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission regarding campaign reform (specifically in support of soft money for issue ads).

In the 2002 election campaigns, 60 Plus paid for issue ads on local radio and TV stations across the country saying that local Republican candidates "care for seniors" so much that they "passed a prescription drug bill" that "saved us from an inept government bureaucracy meddling with health plan benefits."

Ties to right-wing direct mail firm

60 Plus chair James L. Martin worked for Republican direct mail guru Richard Viguerie. "It has been reported that the group's contract with Viguerie's firm allows it to use 60 Plus's contributor list 'in any manner, for any purpose, for its own account,' at least until 2003," reported AARP. In 1994, Viguerie "helped 60 Plus raise $1.3 million, but the organization was left with less than $93,000 after paying fees and expenses (including postage) to Viguerie's operation."[5]

"The Seniors Coalition, 60/Plus and USA all have faced controversy because of their connections to Viguerie," the National Journal reported in 1995. "The Virginia-based direct-mail impresario helped launch all three groups, securing unusually tight control over their mailing lists. ... A federal grand jury in New York City began a probe of Viguerie in 1993, after The New York Times ran an article detailing how he had profited from his work for seniors' groups. ... Why set up three seniors' groups that share much of the same conservative philosophy? Critics say it was for one reason: to put more money in Viguerie's pockets. But leaders of USA and 60/Plus say they are proud of their association with Viguerie, who continues to handle their mailings. ... 'He's the finest, most decent human being I've ever known,' [60 Plus' James] Martin said of Viguerie. Martin proudly points to a passage in Viguerie's 1980 book, The New Right: We're Ready to Lead, that cites Martin as 'one of the conservative movement's foremost direct-mail copywriters.'"[16]

Yet, according to Target Marketing, the "main provisions of an agreement between the charity 60/Plus Association and direct marketing" meant that, "[u]nder the terms of the contract, Viguerie - a for-profit agency - took in money while the non-profit 60/Plus went deeper into debt, presumably with most of that debt accruing to Viguerie & Associates." [17]

Public relations

Hugh C. Newton served as a public relations consultant to 60 Plus. Newton -- who ran his own PR firm, Hugh C. Newton & Associates Inc., also worked for the National Right to Work Committee, Heritage Foundation, Liberty Foundation, Reader's Digest, Amway Corp. and the predecessor of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. [18]

Lobbying and political donations

60 Plus spent $100,000 on lobbying in 2007, $400,000 in 2008, and $100,000 in each of the first two quarters of 2009, according to Lobbyists.info, a subscription-only online database. The group's in-house lobbyists include Amy Noone Frederick, listed as 60 Plus' Executive Vice President; James L. Martin, President; Hugh C. Newton, Public Relations Contact; and Roger H. Zion, Honorary Chair. The group also retains two lobbying firms, Beau Boulter LLC (60 Plus is represented by former Republican Representative from Texas Beau Boulter) and Greener and Hook, LLC.[19]

60 Plus also has a political action committee called the Senior Power Campaign Committee.[19] The PAC, also called "Gray PAC," last reported financial activity in the 2004 election cycle. [20] It was most active in the 2000 election cycle, when it reported raising $246,514 and spending $231,203. The PAC donated $46,666 to federal candidates, 98% of which went to Republicans. It contributed more than $2,000 to Republican Senate candidates Rick Santorum, Rod Grams and Slade Gorton; and to Republican House candidates E Clay Shaw Jr, James E Rogan and Steven T Kuykendall.[21]

Financial information

For fiscal year 2008, 60 Plus reported $1,919,575 in revenue and $2,624,432 for expenses (including $441,180 for administrative costs).[22]

For fiscal year 2006, 60 Plus reported $303,275 in assets, $1,897,258 in income and $1,811,895 in expenses. The organization's single biggest expense was "postage and shipping," at $473,996. The same year, 60 Plus reported $15,196 in income from list rental.[3]

Personnel

From their website:[23]

The group's national spokesperson is singer Pat Boone. [24]

60 Plus' 2008 IRS report also lists the following officers:[22]

Other Board members listed in their 2006 IRS report:[3]

Contact information

60 Plus Association
515 King Street
Suite 315
Alexandria, Virginia 22314

Phone: (703) 807-2070
Fax: (703) 807-2073

Website: http://www.60plus.org
Email: info AT 60plus.org

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. David Dayen Big Pharma Front Group 60 Plus Scaring Seniors with $2M Ad Buy, FireDogLake.com, November 1, 2009
  2. "About 60 Plus," 60 Plus Association website, accessed January 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "60-Plus Association," GuideStar, accessed January 2008.
  4. 60/Plus Association, 60 Plus Association 2008 form 990," 60/Plus Association (via Guidestar), November 2008, page 10.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Bill Hogan, "Pulling Strings from Afar," AARP Bulletin, February 2003
  6. John McCaslin, "Inside the Beltway," The Washington Times, May 26, 2000.
  7. Chuck Collins and Rosie Hunter, "'Death tax' deception," Dollars & Sense, January 2003 - February 2003.
  8. Diane Farsetta, "The Wave of the Future: From Tragedy to Far-Reaching Policy, in Less Than a Month," PR Watch, September 22, 2005.
  9. The National Tax Limitation Committee email / press release, "Bush and Congress Urged Not to Abandon Tax Relief," sent from Lew Uhler / info@limittaxes.org, September 20, 2005.
  10. Rachel Maddow 'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, August 10, 2009, MSNBC.com, accessed September 13, 2010
  11. 60 Plus Association, "Sacrifice Ad - 60+ Plus", YouTube, August 2009.
  12. Ceci Connolly, "Seniors Remain Wary of Health-Care Reform: Administration Aims to Reassure Older Americans Fearful of Losing Access to Care," Washington Post, August 9, 2009.
  13. Marilyn Werber Serafini and Shawn Zeller, "Say It Ain't So, Flo," The National Journal, October 9, 1999.
  14. Press release, "Government-Run Drug Plan is a Bad Prescription For Patients: Citizens for Better Medicare Seeks Private-Sector Prescription Drug Coverage for Seniors," Citizens for Better Medicare via PR Newswire, September 12, 2000.
  15. Theresa Agovino, "Pharmaceutical lobbying effort sparks controversy and pledge of change," Associated Press, March 29, 2002.
  16. Marilyn Werber Serafini, "Senior Schism," The National Journal, May 6, 1995.
  17. Denison Hatch, "Suspect until proven otherwise," Target Marketing, October 1995.
  18. "Obituaries: Hugh C. Newton Public Relations Executive," Washington Post, June 26, 2007.
  19. 19.0 19.1 "The 60 Plus Association," Lobbyists.info (sub req'd), accessed September 2009.
  20. "Senior Power Campaign Committee: 2004 cycle," OpenSecrets.org, accessed September 2009.
  21. "Senior Power Campaign Committee: 2000 cycle," OpenSecrets.org, accessed September 2009.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 "60 Plus Association 2008 form 990," accessed via GuideStar, September 2009.
  23. "About 60 Plus: Leadership," 60 Plus Association website, accessed January 2008.
  24. "About 60 Plus," 60 Plus website, accessed September 2009.

External resources

External articles

  • Public Citizen, "Citizens for Better Medicare: The Truth Behind the Drug Industry's Deception of America's Seniors Designed to Mislead America's Seniors," June 2000. (This report covers 60 Plus amongst other groups.)
  • Bill Hogan, "Pulling Strings from Afar," AARP Bulletin, February 2003.
  • Patrick O'Connor, "Rove briefs lobbyists on Social Security plan," The Hill, March 1, 2005.
  • Laura Miller, "The Fix Behind Fixing Social Security," PR Watch, March 8, 2005.
  • Diane Farsetta, "The Wave of the Future: From Tragedy to Far-Reaching Policy, in Less Than a Month," PR Watch, September 22, 2005.
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