The 60 Plus Association portrays itself as a “non-partisan seniors advocacy group.” But a review of 60 Plus activity shows it to be involved in a variety of special interest advocacy not connected to seniors, and the major players in 60 Plus have a documented history of highly partisan connections and activities.
60 Plus Confronts From the Grave
Yesterday afternoon I received a mailing that wasn’t addressed to me, but rather a deceased woman who used to live where I do now:
It’s a sloppy, scattershot mailing with an inconsistent message: that Social Security and Medicare funding is endangered, that liberals are spending too much, and that I should therefore call my Republican Senators to complain. The triple-flip in logic makes my brain hurt, and I find myself curious to know just what sort of organization would send it out.
Where does 60 Plus Live?
The 60 Plus Association lists two homes. In the mailing sent to my home’s deceased resident, 60 Plus lists its address as 515 King Street Suite 315, Alexandria VA 22314.
But in order to conduct its business across the nation as it does, the 60 Plus Association has to register as a corporate entity in each of the 50 states. In multiple states’ corporate registrations, 60 Plus lists a different address: 1600 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 960 Arlington VA 22209. Even in Virginia itself, 60 Plus lists this second address:
Arlington or Alexandria? In neither of these two addresses does the 60 Plus Association live alone. As ddeclue points out, 515 King Street Suite 315 is also home to the National Defense Council Foundation. 60 Plus Association lobbyist and Chairman James L. Martin is also the President of the National Defense Council Foundation, and has testified in the latter capacity to the U.S. Congress. The National Defense Council has 15 current and former members of Congress listed as “staff” on its web page. Every one of them is a Republican.
As for 1600 Wilson Boulevard Suite 960, it is also the home of the American Civil Rights Union, a conservative political action group with a staff that is entirely Republican. Curiously, 1600 Wilson Boulevard Suite 960 is also a dentist’s office.
What Does 60 Plus Stand For?
The 60 Plus Association identifies itself publicly as a “seniors issues” advocacy group, but the lobbying record of 60 Plus tells a different story, documenting advocacy work on issues as diverse as telecommunications, broadband provision, internet gambling, offshore oil drilling, onshore oil drilling, gasoline taxes and judicial nominations.
Who are the Leaders of 60 Plus?
James L. Martin is the Chairman of 60 Plus, but at times lists himself in records as President. He is the past Director of Gray PAC, a post he held simultaneously with his Chairmanship in 60 Plus. Gray PAC gave exclusively and extensively to the Republican Party and Republican Party political candidates. He has made 41 FEC-registered political contributions since he began working for 60 Plus in the 1990s, each and every one of them to a Republican political candidate or political action committee.
Amy Noone-Frederick is the President of 60 Plus and one of its registered lobbyists. She is married to the former Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, Jeff Frederick, and last year ran for the Virginia House of Delegates as a Republican.
Jeff Frederick, as the Founder, Chief Executive and Chairman of GXS Strategies, is responsible for the web architecture and operations of the 60 Plus website:
60 Plus was seeking to improve upon its online communications strategy to provide for an internet presence that would substantially increase their visibility with their membership, the public and the media resulting in an improved platform from which to inform and mobilize their membership; earn media; build coalitions with other organizations; and work more efficiently.
GXS first developed an internal network architecture in their office that promoted more efficient communication among staff members and the general public, as well as providing a larger degree of network security and IT risk management. Subsequently, for the organization’s more broad goals, GXS deployed ActivistWeb for 60 Plus, which included a complete redevelopment and design of their website with sections for issues, news, events, and photos. In addition, prospective members can join 60 Plus online from the site and other supporters can make financial contributions. Most importantly, ActivistWeb provides the administration tools necessary for 60 Plus’ staff to easily update, manage, and maintain their site without needing any technical know-how.
The result was just as expected: more earned media; a growing and informed membership; a more productive staff; and funds raised online — all accomplished under budget.
Frederick is the former Chairman of the Virginia Republican Party, a role he describes as “chief partisan” for the Republican party. In May 2009 Frederick announced that he and wife Amy Noone-Frederick had just spent eight years in “partisan office” and would be taking a break from them after those eight years… “But rest assured, God willing, it won’t be a long sabbatical.” (See Kelly Canfield for more on the Frederick-60 Plus connection.)
How Partisan is the 60 Plus Association?
As established above, 60 Plus’ bunkmates are exclusively run by Republicans, 60 Plus is staffed by self-described Republican partisans, and the contributions of its leadership are extensively and exclusively Republican. 60 Plus has targeted 16 members of Congress to be ousted in the 2010 election campaign. Each of them is a Democrat.
Earlier today, 60 Plus announced the sale of its membership list to the group called American Seniors Association, which is in turn a front group for the fundamentalist American Family Association and the Republican Party/Koch Brothers organization called Americans for Prosperity.
The Mother Jones Coda
We don’t have a paid journalistic staff of dozens, but if we did we still might not do as well as Mother Jones, whose Ben Buchwalter and Nikki Gloudeman uncovered the following additional information on 60 Plus:
60 Plus presents itself as a “grassroots senior citizen organization.” Although it claims to be nonpartisan, it was formed with help from stalwart conservative direct-mail king Richard Viguerie and refers to its honorary chairman Roger Zion as “one of Washington’s leading spokesmen for the conservative cause.” This year, it’s run a more traditional astroturf operation opposing the administration’s health care proposals.
During the Bush administration, 60 Plus was linked to several dubious political campaigns, and had ties to Jack Abramoff. The investigation of the lobbyist revealed that in 2001, Abramoff told one of his clients, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana to give $25,000 intended for Tom DeLay’s political action committee to 60 Plus, although the tribe’s primary interest was in gambling legislation. (A lawyer for the tribe said that Abramoff advised them that the donation would help the tribe win clout with the Republican leadership in Congress.)
But for several years Big Pharma was 60 Plus’ major benefactor. According to a 2006 investigation by the AARP Bulletin, the pharmaceutical industry accounted for “virtually all of [60 Plus'] largest contributions” in the early years of this decade. In return, the group lobbied hard against state laws that would have reduced prescription-drug prices. On one occasion, the industry hired Bonner & Associates (a Washington strategic operation currently being investigated by Congress for forging letters opposing cap and trade and sending them to lawmakers). Bonner paid callers to read from scripts that identified them as members of 60 Plus and urged citizens to tell their governor to veto the legislation. Pfizer later admitted to funding the calls. Ken Johnson Sr., a vice president of PhRMA, told Mother Jones that the organization has not given 60 Plus any money since 2004.
This year, 60 Plus has been tirelessly working to torpedo Obama’s health care reform with a series of misleading and alarmist ads. On August 10, 60 Plus released a television ad warning that “The government—not doctors—will decide if older patients are worth the cost.” A recent mailing from 60 Plus told recipients that proposed changes to Medicare would 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!” And a flyer distributed in Nebraska by 60 Plus features a picture of ailing elderly people and quotes Obama out of context saying, “Maybe you’re better off not having the surgery, but taking the painkiller.”
And Does This All Matter?
You may ask yourself why all this information about 60 Plus matters.
According to the Federal Election Commission, beginning on August 27 the 60 Plus Association began making a series of independent expenditures, detailed as follows:
$382,308.76 for TV advertisements to stop the election of Democratic congressional candidate Roy Herron, who has been lambasted for daring to suggest that abortions to save the lives of dying women have their place. Roy Herron’s wife found herself in that situation.
These are just the independent expenditures since the very end of August 2010 through yesterday. They’ll continue tomorrow and the day after that. They add up to $6,010,820.34 spent on just 16 congressional races within the last month alone. They’re spent uniformly against Democrats, and they’re possibly game-changing contributions: the spending on Rep. Carney’s re-election bid represents a sum that is twice as large as the money officially raised by Carney’s opponent, Republican Tom Marino.
And no, 60 Plus doesn’t have to disclose a single solitary piece of information about who ponied up that $6.0 million.
That’s why this information about the activity of the 60 Plus Association matters.