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Overview:

 
60 Plus Association

Stated Purpose:
A non-partisan seniors advocacy group with a free enterprise, less government, less taxes approach to senior issues.

Tax Status:
501(c)(4)

Political Orientation:
Republican

Profile:
September 2004  —  60 Plus Association was formed in the early 1990s with help from Richard A. Viguerie, a conservative direct mail guru who has had ties to two other purported senior citizens' advocacy organizations that have served the causes of Republicans and the pharmaceutical industry in recent years: United Seniors Association and the Seniors Coalition.1 2 3

60 Plus sent direct mail or broadcast radio messages in at least 24 federal election contests in the months leading up to Election Day 2002. In nearly every case in which the content of its direct mail or radio advertisements was reported, 60 Plus communications concerned prescription drug benefits for senior citizens.4

The group appears to have coordinated its 2002 electioneering efforts with at least two other 501(c) organizations believed to be at least partially funded by the pharmaceutical industry: America 21 and the Seniors Coalition. The three groups chose to advertise in many of the same contests. In Colorado's 7th District congressional contest between Republican Bob Beauprez and Democrat Mike Feeley, all three groups sent out direct mail pieces that misspelled the Republican's name identically as "Beuprez." The mailers had similar or identical type faces, and each promoted Beauprez's support for a Medicare prescription drug benefit.5 6 7 8

"While the Special Interests are selling another scheme for government run health care ... Bob Beuprez [sic] is supporting a Medicare prescription drug plan that works for America's seniors," the mailing said.9

60 Plus President Jim Martin told the British Medical Journal in 2003 that his group had 225,000 donors, whom he said he would not disclose to protect their privacy.10 But in 2002, 60 Plus received nearly $11 million (91 percent of its total revenue) from a single undisclosed donor, according to the group's Form 990 filing with the IRS.11

It is quite likely that such a large contribution came from the pharmaceutical industry. The Washington Post reported that 60 Plus was the beneficiary of an unrestricted educational grant in 2002 from PhRMA, the trade association of the brand name prescription drug industry;12 AARP Bulletin reported that 60 Plus received contributions in 2001 from PhRMA and from drug giants Pfizer, Merck and Wyeth-Ayerst.13

In the last three years, 60 Plus has relied increasingly on contributions of $5,000 or more, according to its disclosures to the IRS. The group's 2003 revenue represented a dramatic leap. Its annual revenue from 1999 to 2001 ranged from about $1.6 million to $2 million.14

60 Plus reported to the IRS that it had zero political expenditures from 2000 to 2002, representing to the IRS that none of its advocacy communications were intended to influence the outcomes of elections.15 That claim appeared particularly suspect for 60 Plus communications in at least five U.S. House contests and one U.S. Senate contest in which the group praised or criticized candidates who did not hold federal office and were not in a position to vote on the issues 60 Plus raised.16

Although 60 Plus bills itself as a non-partisan organization, its electioneering messages in 2002 exclusively benefited Republicans. Martin, the group's president, has long been associated with Republican politics. Among other things, the group's Web site advertises that Martin "was instrumental" in hiring George W. Bush for his first job in politics to work on the successful 1968 U.S. Senate campaign of Edward J. Gurney (R-Fla.).17


1   Jim Martin, "The Funding Father of the Conservative Movement," Washington Times, Sept. 20, 2003.
2   Public Citizen's analysis of data contained in the New Stealth PACs database. Data collected from groups' Web sites and annual tax forms, press reports, academic papers on activities of independent political groups and interviews by Public Citizen research staff.
3   Erik Eckholm, "Fear In The Mail," New York Times, Nov. 12, 1992.
4   Public Citizen's analysis of data contained in the New Stealth PACs database. Data collected from groups' Web sites and annual tax forms, press reports, academic papers on activities of independent political groups and interviews by Public Citizen research staff.
5   Public Citizen's analysis of data contained in the New Stealth PACs database. Data collected from groups' Web sites and annual tax forms, press reports, academic papers on activities of independent political groups and interviews by Public Citizen research staff.
6   Daniel Smith, "Distorted by Outside Money: National Parties and the Race for Colorado's Seventh Congressional District," in "The Last Hurrah? Soft Money and Issue Advocacy in the 2002 Congressional Elections," edited by David E. Magelby and J. Quin Monson, 2003.
7   America 21 2002 direct mail piece, collected by the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, Brigham Young University, 2002.
8   Seniors Coalition 2002 Direct Mail Piece, collected by the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, Brigham Young University, 2002.
9   60 Plus 2002 direct mail piece, collected by the Center for the Study in Elections in Democracy, 2002.
10   Roy Moynihan, "U.S. Seniors Group Attacks Pharmaceutical Industry 'Fronts,'" British Medical Journal, Feb. 15, 2003.
11   60 Plus 990 form, 2002.
12   Thomas B. Edsall, "High Drug Prices Return As Issue That Stirs Voters; New Challenges for a Lobby Used to Spending," Washington Post, Oct. 15, 2002.
13   Bill Hogan, "Pulling Strings From Afar," AARP Bulletin, February 2003.
14   60 Plus 990 forms, 1999-2002.
15   IRS Form 990 Instructions, Line 81, 2003. (Available at www.irs.gov.)
16   Public Citizen's analysis of data contained in the New Stealth PACs database. Data collected from groups' Web sites and annual tax forms, press reports, academic papers on activities of independent political groups and interviews by Public Citizen research staff.
17   60 Plus Web site. (Available at www.60plus.org. Accessed on May 26, 2004.)



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