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 I stopped by Talking Points Memo and found a truly nasty commercial that an astroturf group is puting out to terrify seniors. What makes it truly despicable is that it targets the Greatest Generation. They're claiming that Medicare is going to be cut by $500 billion to pay for health care reform, that doctors will be in short supply, treatments will be rationed, the government will decide if seniors are worth treating, and that Congress (with the faces of Pelosi and Rangel displayed at the end) will be making sure it has better health care for itself.

  According to TPM, this is a national ad buy for $1.5 million by a group calling itself the 60 plus association. And just who are they?  (more)

 First, here's the ad. It's truly despicable.

  Here's the home page for the 60 plus association. Pat Boone is their national spokesman. (That should tell you all you need to know right there).  Here's their self-description

The 60 Plus Association is a non-partisan seniors advocacy group with a free enterprise, less government, less taxes approach to seniors issues.  60 Plus has set ending the federal estate tax and saving Social Security for the young as its top priorities.  60 Plus is often viewed as the conservative alternative to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

Seems relatively innocuous, right?

Here's what SourceWatch has to say:

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. [1] 60 Plus is registered as a 501(c)(4) non-profit with the Internal Revenue Service. [2]
However, a 2006 report in the AARP Bulletin called 60 Plus a front group for the pharmaceutical industry. 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." [3]

StealthPacs:

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:
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

And from Wikipedia:

The 60 Plus Association is an American non-partisan[citation needed] advocacy group based in Arlington, Virginia, that bills itself as the conservatives' alternative to the AARP, (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons). Over the years, it has sought to privatize Social Security, end the Death Tax, and strengthen gun rights.[1] Current issues include opposing health care reform proposals; [2] opposing federal energy standards; [3] opposing the General Motors bailout; [4] and opposing tax increases on those earning more than $250,000 per year.[5] 60 Plus is a member of the Cooler Heads Coalition.

emphasis added

The Drug Boys are playing hardball with this ad. So much for the White House deal. Rahm, are you taking notes about this?

 The question now is, what to do to respond?

  The White House Reality Check website has the facts. The trouble is, this is NOT being seen nationwide, you have to wonder how many seniors are going to use the Internet to check, and the spokesman in the Reality Check video, frankly, is the kind of doctor who needs to be replaced by an actor playing a doctor.  The short clip of Obama is good, but Robert Kocher is terrible on camera.

Although Reality Check doesn't respond directly to this ad, it seems pretty clear that the Medicare budget will be getting smaller - but NOT because of cuts. It will come from savings by reducing insurance company overhead AND by reducing drug costs. Now we know why the Drug Industry is playing this card, claiming a threat to Medicare. The White House says that if anything, Medicare will get better with the reform package.

Going by remarks at TPM in the comments, it looks like the networks have no problem running this garbage.

There are no easy answers unless you happen to have a few million dollars of your own to place ads - AND can get the networks to run them. But, some of the basics apply.

If you see these ads on TV in your area, call the local station to complain and do the same with the network running them. Write letters to the local papers; call in to local talk radio (if you have a strong stomach).

If you run into seniors terrified by this ad, tell them as gently and as calmly as you can that it is all lies. That the group running the ads gets most of its money from the drug industry. That the $500 billion cut they're talking about is actually savings - from cutting the price of the medicines people have to pay. Again - they're not cuts, they're savings from making the system work better for people, NOT the drug industry.

And tell them nobody in their right mind wants to hurt Medicare - it works so well, they'd like to give everybody that level of care.

Pushing back works - the media can't ignore it if enough voices are raised.

ABC News actually ran a fact check segment tonight, looking into the story that government 'death panels' are going to euthanize seniors. They actually showed clips and named names from some of the more outrageous examples, including one Nazi comparison. It sounds like this ad would be a good subject for them to fact check too.

UPDATE:  I did a little more digging, and got to an AARP Bulletin article that has quite a bit more. Big Pharma has been using 60 Plus and other groups for quite some time now to do stealth politicking.

At about the same time, the pharmaceutical industry began using the 60 Plus Association as a screen for its efforts to defeat prescription drug legislation at the state level.

Among other things, it hired Bonner & Associates, a Washington-based firm that specializes in "Astroturf lobbying"—so named because it's the "artificial" version of grassroots lobbying—to fight such legislation in Minnesota and New Mexico. 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.

Records obtained by the Bulletin show that the pharmaceutical industry has been a formidable financial force behind United Seniors Association, the Seniors Coalition and 60 Plus Association.

In 2001, for example, United Seniors took in a total of more than $3.1 million from PhRMA and CBM, amounting to more than 36 percent of its revenue for the year. In 2000 the Seniors Coalition got nearly $2.1 million from PhRMA and nearly $170,000 from CBM, amounting to more than 17 percent of its revenue. In its 2001 fiscal year, 60 Plus got a total of $275,000 from PhRMA, CBM 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.

"We're not a front for anybody," James L. Martin, the chairman of 60 Plus, told the Bulletin. "I get money from lots of sources. I've received money from the pharmaceuticals—I wish it was more."

Originally posted to xaxnar on Mon Aug 10, 2009 at 07:53 PM PDT.

Poll

After seeing this ad,

67%23 votes
11%4 votes
8%3 votes
2%1 votes
8%3 votes

| 34 votes | Vote | Results

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