Political leanings: Conservative/Republican
Spending target: Unknown
The 60 Plus Association was founded in 1992 and describes itself as “a non-partisan seniors advocacy group with a free enterprise, less government, less taxes approach.” It claims that it is “often viewed as the conservative alternative to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).”
Its founder and chairman is James L. Martin, a one-time journalist and former Republican operative who was chief of staff to the late Republican Sen. Edward J. Gurney of Florida in the late 1960s. According to his official biography, Martin also “helped to organize and direct several advocacy groups including the National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC),” which pioneered independent spending on attack ads and famously claimed credit for defeating several liberal Democratic senators in the 1980 elections.
The president of 60 Plus is Amy Noone Frederick, a former lobbyist and consultant, and the group’s national spokesman is 1950s pop star Pat Boone, who wrote that “liberalism” is like a cancer-causing virus. Martin and Boone have appeared at tea party rallies.
60 Plus advocates the permanent repeal of the estate tax (which it refers to as the “death tax”), opposes the Affordable Care Act, and supports creating personal retirement accounts within Social Security.
In late March, the group made its first large ad buy of the 2014 election cycle with a $1.6 million campaign targeting seven Senate Banking Committee members for their support of a plan to overhaul the housing finance market. The ads liken the plan to “Obamacare” and say it “will allow the government to take over the mortgage industry.” The campaign includes TV and radio ads against three Democrats — Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mark Warner of Virginia — and four Republicans — Sens. Mike Crapo of Idaho, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Jerry Moran of Kansas.
In the 2012 cycle, 60 Plus spent more than $4.6 million on independent expenditures. Most of that amount, $2.9 million, was spent trying to elect Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The group also spent more than $1.4 million against Democratic candidates, including almost $322,000 against President Obama, $350,500 against Ron Barber’s bid for an Arizona congressional seat, and $327,000 against Dan Maffei in a New York congressional race. In May 2014, the group ran TV ads against Nebraska GOP Senate primary contenders Sid Dinsdale and Shane Osborn. Both men lost to Midland University President Ben Sasse, who was backed by the tea party.
As a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization, 60 Plus is not required to disclose the sources of its funding, and it does not. The Center for Responsive Politics, however, has identified major sources of funding for 60 Plus by reviewing the IRS filings of its contributors.
Between 2009 and 2012, 60 Plus received nearly $16. 7 million from the Center to Protect Patient Rights (now called American Encore), a conservative group with ties to Republican mega-donors Charles and David Koch. In 2012, the group received more than $15.6 million from Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a conservative group that spent $238 million during that year’s elections. And it also received nearly $4.6 million from the American Future Fund in 2012 and $4.1 million from the now defunct TC4 Trust in 2011. American Future Fund and TC4 Trust have been linked to the billionaire Koch brothers, as well.
Liberal and Democratic critics have described 60 Plus as a “front” for big pharmaceutical companies. Slate magazine once reported that “Pharma representatives deny that flat-out,” and that “the rumor exists because Pharma gave the group money in 2002, but it hasn’t written a check since then.” Furthermore, the prescription-drug lobby and 60 Plus were on opposite sides during the debate over the Affordable Care Act. 60 Plus opposed the legislation, while the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America endorsed the measure after it passed, but only after it spent tens of millions of dollars advertising in support of a compromise bill.
Fact-checking 60 Plus Association:
Obamacare for the Mortgage Industry?, April 4