A seniors group that claims to be grassroots but has ties to Republicans and members of the pharmaceutical industry has been handing out awards to vulnerable Republicans for standing up for senior citizens.RetireSafe.org purports to be “a grassroots organization that advocates and educates on behalf of America’s seniors on issues regarding Social Security, Medicare, health and financial well being.”
But according to a Roll Call report this week, the group’s board has close ties to Republicans, and it receives a chunk of its financing from the pharmaceutical industry.
RetireSafe’s vice president, Al Cors Jr., for example, was the VP for government affairs at the National Taxpayers Union and has lobbied for the NRA. Board member Jim Marquez was general counsel for the Transportation Department for Ronald Reagan, and board member Charles Partridge was an adviser for George W. Bush’s transition team.
And in 2004, RetireSafe launched (sub. req.) a campaign, which was carried out by the Republican lobby and public relations firm DCI Group, to pay almost $4000 to healthcare consultants in exchange for their support of the Medicare prescription drug program called Part D.
From Janie Lorber at Roll Call:
PhRMA has long supported RetireSafe, contributing $88,000 to the organization during the past three years, according to federal filings. While that is small change from PhRMA’s standpoint, it is a sizable contribution compared with RetireSafe’s more modest budget. PhRMA gives away millions of dollars in charitable grants every year. In 2010, for example, PhRMA gave $4.5 million to the American Action Network — a conservative political organization — and $1.2 million to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.
“Historically, RetireSafe receives less than 10 percent of its revenue from high-dollar donors,” said Thair Phillips, president of RetireSafe, told Roll Call.
“Right-wing front groups like RetireSafe can spend little money but still impact races by just having Orwellian-sounding names and slick mailers that try to dupe seniors into supporting positions that run counter to their best interests,” former DCCC spokesman Doug Thornell said.
This year, the group has given out honors to 20 Republicans (and, Phillips pointed out, 11 Democrats), like Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who boasted in a press release in October about receiving the “Standing Up for America’s Seniors” award for his “ongoing commitment to the interests of seniors.” Also honored recently: Rep. Allen West (R-FL), Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO), Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), and Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH).
Read Roll Call’s full report here.