DOUBLE-PLUS GOOD: GUTKNECHT RECEIVES "SUPER FRIEND OF SENIORS" AWARD FROM 60 PLUS
There's a new press release up at the Gutknecht campaign site that salutes the congressman for receiving the "Super Friend of Seniors" Award from a group called 60 Plus:
Gutknecht Named "Super Friend of Seniors"
Washington, DC - First District Congressman Gil Gutknecht today received the "Super Friend of Seniors" award from the 60 Plus Association (60 Plus) for his work during the 109th Congress.
"I would like to thank the 60 Plus Association for recognizing my work, but the real award should go to Southern Minnesota seniors," said Gutknecht. "I have been honored to be a part of an open dialogue with our seniors. That's why I continue to fight for affordable health care, and for always keeping the patient-doctor relationship at the forefront of public policy."/p>
60 Plus 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 "death" tax and saving Social Security for the young as its top priorities.
Just what kind of a seniors' group is the 60 plus Association?
Not much of one, online sources suggest. Public Citizen's The New Stealth PACs: Tracking 501(c) Non-Profits in Elections, provides an overview of the 60 Plus Assocation. Long and somewhat dated, but worth a read intact :
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
Read the rest below the fold.
"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
More on the 60 Plus Association from the AARP Bulletin and SourceWatch. The 60Plus Association's web site's front page hasn't been updated with much news since April 2006, when the "Seniors' Group Embraces Iraqi Liberation Week." Seems like the media wasn't reporting enough good news.
The spectacle of Gutknecht campaigning as an opponent of the drug companies while receiving a "Super Friend of Seniors" award from one of the industry's faux-grassroots front groups provides certain Orwellian pleasures, low-hanging fruit plucked in a DFL press release back in mid-September.
The DFL press release concluded with a side glance at the 60 Plus Association's Social Security privatization, and that's where we'll look for our double-plus good newspeak kicks.
60+ has played a role in trying to wipe away the phrase "privatization" in favor of other euphemisms. Even as early as 2002, the group was involved in coalition called Social Security Choice, which urged dropping the word "privatization" in exchange for "modernization." The language and the coalition strategy was repeated in 2005, with the creation of COMPASS, the Coalition for the Modernization and Protection of America's Social Security. Now 60+ tells us it's in favor of "saving Social Security for the young."
Ever since the President's plan to begin privatizing Social Security tanked in 2005, the issue has been downplayed. But Josh Marshall pointed out in September that the issue is very much alive, citing an interview with President Bush published by the Wall Street Journal. Here's a report on the potential return after November's electino of efforts to privatize Social Security. Since 19% of the residents of MN-01 collect social Security benefits, this issue affects the district's pocketbooks.
Where's Gutknecht, the "Super Friend of Seniors" on this issue? Is he the double-plus good friend the conservative front group supports? Good question.
We think he flip-flops like a gigged frog, depending upon the political winds. In 2001, Gutknecht signed a letter written by Ohio Senator Mike Demint to President Bush's Commission on Social Security, urging privatization (see Appendix 3, p. 18).
There wouldn't seem to be a budge between 2001 and July 2005, if all we had to judge was a radio show broadcast covered by local television station KAAL:
U.S. Congressman Gil Gutknecht says the way people debate Social Security needs to be changed to a non-partisan discussion.
He says it will be difficult to reform the program while politicians have what he calls 'heated arguments'.
Gutknecht spent an hour talking about the future of Social Security on his weekly radio show. . . .
. . .Gutknecht likes to explain why the current Social Security system is doomed and illustrate the way the program has changed with a chart.
Well, maybe not "doomed," if we read Gutknecht's remarks in April 2005 to the Associated Press:
Rep. Gil Gutknecht, R-Minn., said during an editorial board meeting with the (Rochester) Post-Bulletin that Bush must overcome a "credibility problem" to revamp Social Security.
The congressman said many people think the president underestimated the cost of the Iraqi war, then overestimated the benefits of Medicare's prescription drug plan.
"And now, all the sudden, they wonder why people are a bit skeptical of their ... plan on Social Security", he said. "It's partly a credibility problem."
Gutknecht also rejected the Bush contention that Social Security is in "crisis."
"If I use the word 'bankrupt,' you know, kick me, because I don't think that's a fair term to say about Social Security", the congressman told the newspaper. "It is not in crisis today. I don't use the word 'crisis.'"
But Gutknecht was positive about the President's approach and rhetoric after the 2005 SOTU address, according to the Star Tribune (taken from ProQuest):
Democratic Rep. Martin Sabo said that Bush "totally exaggerates and distorts the problem with Social Security." And Democratic Rep. Jim Oberstar said that overstating problems with Social Security is a "recurring theme with Republicans in the White House."
"They're not worried about Social Security, about saving it," he said. "They're trying to find ways to dismantle it. So this is a manufactured crisis."
Many Democrats doubt that Bush will succeed, but Republican Rep. Gil Gutknecht said that Bush has always benefited from people underestimating him. "I wouldn't bet against him this time," he said.
Gutknecht said that Bush presented an "incredibly bold agenda" and did a good job of defining the problems that Social Security faces and presenting a "common sense" solution.
2/3/2005; "STATE OF THE UNION ; REACTION; THE MINNESOTA DELEGATION; By and large, reactions fell along party lines")
Why the flip-flipping? Later in February 2005, MPR reported in a segment on Bush's plan:
But even some Republicans who generally side with the president, and who like the idea of private accounts, are concerned about the tone of Bush's rhetoric.
"I think if we mangle this issue, it could clearly cost us the majority in the House. I understand how radioactive this can be," says 1st District Republican Congressman Gil Gutknecht, . . .
Whether it's term limits, the Iraq War or Social Security, Gutknecht is an unwavering principled man . . .until the issue threatens his job security. As his slogan implies, Gutknecht is working for what matters most: his own relection.