The 60 Plus Association is one of the top 15 dark money groups examined by Issue One’s new “Dark Money Illuminated” report that has been spending millions of dollars in our elections since Citizens United without publicly disclosing their donors. Dark money groups frequently operate as attack dogs during campaigns, criticizing candidates from the shadows. Dark money groups also often push the envelope in terms of how much political spending they can engage in without running afoul of rules that prohibit them from existing primarily to influence elections. By masquerading as a trade association or “social welfare” nonprofit, dark money groups avoid the mandatory donor disclosure rules that would come with registering as a political committee whose primary purpose is to influence elections.
Here’s what Issue One’s year-long “Dark Money Illuminated” investigation revealed:
- The 60 Plus Association raised $92 million between July 2009 and June 2017
- Issue One identified 29 donors to this dark money group
- These donors collectively accounted for 51% of its funding
Issue One found 13 donors that gave at least $100,000 since July 2009:
- American Encore (formerly Center to Protect Patient Rights): $16 million
- Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce: $16 million
- American Future Fund: $4.6 million
- TC4 Trust: $4.1 million
- Consumer Information Council: $1.9 million
- Vote Alabama: $1 million
- Free Enterprise America: $840,000
- Peoples Alliance for Leadership: $630,000
- Mobile Consumers for Choice and Competition (formerly Midwest Consumers for Choice and Competition): $250,000
- Arizona Free Enterprise Club: $200,000
- Next Century Fund: $140,000
- Citizens for a Digital Future: $100,000
- Policy and Taxation Group: $100,000
Note: These numbers have been rounded to two significant figures. Click here to see more details about these contributions — and all identified donors to this group — in Issue One’s exclusive database of dark money donors, and click here to learn more about how these contributors were identified.
The 60 Plus Association self-reported to the IRS that 10% of its total spending was related to political campaign activities.
It also told the FEC that 72% of its political spending was negative.
About the 60 Plus Association
Incorporated in Virginia in August 1990 as a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization, the 60 Plus Association markets itself as a conservative alternative to AARP. The group’s founder and longtime chairman is Jim Martin, a former journalist who served as the chief of staff to a Republican senator during the 1960s. Martin is also the man who is credited as popularizing the term “death tax” for the tax paid by the wealthiest Americans when they pass their estates onto their heirs. Singer Pat Boone, who rose to fame in the 1950s for his pop and gospel songs, serves as the 60 Plus Association’s national spokesman.
When it applied for tax-exempt status, the 60 Plus Association told the Internal Revenue Service it planned to raise money from unspecified “individuals, corporations and foundations.”
In 2016, the Federal Election Commission levied a $50,000 fine against the 60 Plus Association for failing to disclose that a nonprofit known as the Center to Protect Patient Rights — a group associated with the political network of billionaires Charles and David Koch — was a donor behind some of its political expenditures in 2010. However, according to media reports, the 60 Plus Association only paid one-tenth of this fine — and decided to contest the remaining amount.
In 2014, a liberal watchdog group asked the IRS to determine whether the 60 Plus Association had violated federal law “by intentionally failing to disclose” millions of dollars in spending on political activities in 2010 and 2012. An Issue One review of federal records shows that the 60 Plus Association told the FEC that it spent at least $2.3 million more expressly advocating for the election or defeat of candidates between July 2009 and June 2017 than the group told the IRS it spent on “direct or indirect political campaign activities” during the same period