A grass roots organization conducts a poll among seniors, garnering support for a cancer drug denied by the FDA. The problem is, the drug, Avastin by Genentech, not only fails to prolong life. It also costs almost $100,000 a year, compared to effective drugs already on the market which cost around $12,000 a year. Now how much would you pay?, to coin a phrase.
The so-called grass roots organization is the 60 Plus Association is in reality a front group for the pharmaceutical industry. In addition to backing expensive yet ineffective drugs, it also supports privatizing Social Security. Privatization has lost support ever since the financial meltdown of the stock market in 2008. The 60 Plus group was outed by none other than the premier senior advocacy group, AARP, way back in 2003.
The 60 Plus group also takes advantage of confusion over the provisions of the healthcare reform law recently passed by the Obama administration. It continues to foster the impression among seniors that Medicare is due for cuts, even though the healthcare reform bill has no language reducing Medicare at all. If any cuts are under consideration, they preceded and are completely divorced from the healthcare reform bill.
However, that does not stop 60 Plus from pouring big money behind Republican candidates in the current election cycle. The 60 Plus group plans to spend $4 million spread, across six states, to attack Democrats. The six states are Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee. Keep a sharp eye on the small print on such TV ads where the financing source is identified, as required by law.
In addition to AARP, the group has also been denounced by Public Citizen, the watchdog organization. Public Citizen said 60 Plus was nothing more than a “direct mail specialist”. It said 60 Plus “been denounced by Republicans and Democrats alike for their scare tactics, which involve frightening seniors with overblown threats to their retirement benefits and asking them to send money to support the group’s questionable lobbying efforts.” Other consumer watchdog groups like Stealth PACs and Source Watch have made similar judgments about this phony grass roots group.
There is another term for groups such as 60 Plus: Astroturfing. As defined by Wikipedia, Astroturfing “denotes political, advertising, or public relations campaigns that are formally planned by an organization, but are disguised as spontaneous, popular “grassroots” behavior. The term refers to AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to look like natural grass.” The organizations that generate these campaigns are almost always corporations. The term was coined by former US Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, who had a gift for the memorable turn of phrase in his vice-presidential campaign as well.
Bill Hogan, Pulling Strings from Afar: Drug Industry Finances Nonprofit Groups That Claim to Speak for Older Americans, AARP Bulletin, February 2003, reprinted at BusinessWord.com at http://www.businessword.com/index.php?/weblog/comments/422
Anne Landman, The 60 Plus Association: A Corporate Assault in “Good-for-Seniors” Clothing, PR Watch, Sept. 15, 2010, http://www.prwatch.org/node/9458