60 Plus Association
Alexandria, Virginia-based 60 Plus Association is a 501(c)(4) social welfare group that bills itself as “a non-partisan seniors advocacy group with a free enterprise, less government, less taxes approach to seniors issues.” It is often seen as a conservative counterweight to the more mainstream AARP and claims to have more than 7 million members. Unlike AARP, however, 60 Plus does not seem to collect member dues.
Despite its claims of nonpartisanship, the Koch-funded group – founded in 1992 by long-time conservative operative Jim Martin – is almost exclusively engaged in partisan politics, spending tens of millions of dollars on electioneering, particularly in crucial swing states. It has even backed decidedly anti-senior legislation that benefits its corporate backers or advances the Republican agenda.
During the past several election cycles, 60 Plus has received an astonishing $42 million from various groups used by the Koch Brothers to elect Republican candidates to federal office. That figure includes $16,659,723 from the Center to Protect Patient Rights (now called American Encore), $15,660,000 from Freedom Partners, $4,550,000 from American Future Fund, and $4,061,000 from TC4 Trust. Free Enterprise America, a less well-known Koch group, has contributed $840,000.
In 2009, the last year before Koch money started pouring in, 60 Plus reported income of $1.8 million, $1.5 million (or 85%) of which was spent on “providing resources and educational material to senior citizens.” The next year, revenue jumped to $16 million, yet less than $1 million (or 5.5%) was spent on providing education resources to seniors. 60 Plus spent $13.5 million on opposing passage of the health care reform, including $9.6 million on ad buys and nearly $1.9 million on mailers. However, the group told the IRS that it has not participated in any “direct or indirect campaign activities.”
The bulk of the group’s electioneering is focused on dishonest ads attacking Democrats for supporting healthcare reform. A 2009 ad, for example, claimed that health reform would, among other things, mean “government, not doctors, will decide if older patients are worth the cost.” Factcheck.org, a site that analyzes political ads, found the spot’s claim to be “mostly false.” A 2011 ad targeting Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, for example, alleged the Independent Payment Advisory Board set up under the Affordable Care Act was “a Medicare IRS with the power to cut Medicare to pay for new government programs.” The fact checking site PolitiFact gave the ad its worst rating of “Pants on Fire.”
In 2014, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sent a complaint to the IRS after it noticed 60 Plus lied on tax filings submitted to the IRS. “Out of one side of its mouth, the group told the Federal Election Commission it spent millions on political advertisements explicitly urging votes for or against candidates,” the complaint read, “and out of the other side of its mouth it told the IRS it spent almost nothing on political campaigns.” In fact, the amount the group claimed it spent on electioneering was noticeably less than what it had claimed in its own press releases announcing large ad buys.
The group’s president, Amy Noone Frederick, is a former lobbyist and one-time candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates. Her husband, Jeff Frederick, was a former member of the body and later served as chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia. Martin, the 60 Plus founder, has called Society Security “an antiquated relic of a bygone era.” Singer Pat Boone has been group’s national spokesperson since 2003 and regularly appears in their political ads. In 2011, Boone championed Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare.
Sometimes, the group has taken positions directly opposed to the better interest of seniors. In Minnesota, 60 Plus supported proposed voter ID legislation, accusing AARP – a critic of the legislation – of not giving a “silver nickel about what Minnesota seniors want.” Senior citizens are among the most hurt by voter ID laws. As one expert with the Brennan Center pointed out, “There’s no question that citizens over 65 will be particularly impacted. The older you get, the more likely you won’t have an ID.” In another instance, the group was used in an AstroTurf campaign by the pharmaceutical industry to lobby against generic drugs. Seniors, purporting to be with 60 Plus but working for Bonner & Associates, called state legislators asking that the legislation be defeated. According to the Associated Press, Bonner was “a lobbying firm furnished by drug maker Pfizer.” (Bonner was in the headlines in 2009 after the firm sent faked letters asking lawmakers to oppose climate change legislation.)
60 Plus was also entangled in the controversy surrounding former lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s pay-for-play scheme. According to the Washington Monthly, “Abramoff directed the Louisiana Coushatta tribe to reissue a $25,000 check made out to [Tom] DeLay’s ARMPAC, and redirect it to 60 Plus.” The tribe was told the money would be used to help lobby for passage of a prescription drug package making its way through Congress.
Main Street Bondholders
60 Plus is one of the main Koch front groups involved in the fight to prevent debt-relief assistance to the Puerto Rican government. To this end, 60 Plus formed the “Main Street Bondholders Alliance” to attack the political leadership of Puerto Rico and the possibility of debt relief. In a press release, the Main Street Bondholders said it “denounces Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla and the Obama Administration’s plan to violate Puerto Rico’s Constitution by abandoning the Commonwealth’s debt obligations.” The group also sent members to a Senate Judiciary Committe hearing on the Puerto Rican debt crisis and afterwards held a press conference to draw attention to their opposition to fair treatment for Pureto Rico under Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy code. A CNN profile of Puerto Rican bondholders meant to “put a face on the crisis” in actuality featured four members of 60 Plus’s fake coalition – funded almost entirely by large donations.
1 transaction on record as a donor.
|60 Plus Association||Freedom Partners Action Fund||$575,000||2014||+|