The Associated Press reports that two additional nonprofits that support conservative causes — Americans for Job Security and the 60 Plus Association — have joined the election spending fray in a big way, buying $5 million in advertisements attacking Democrats in House races in swing districts across the country:
The two groups are part of a series of GOP-leaning outside organizations that are pouring money into this year’s elections in hope of wresting congressional control from the Democrats. The ads, which label the Democrats as too liberal for their districts, take aim at some of the most competitive races in the country and represent an escalation in spending that is already breaking records.
Freed by a Supreme Court decision earlier this year, the groups are specifically calling for the Democrats’ defeat. Before the ruling, such groups had to couch their ad language as “issue ads” and had to beware of running up against Federal Election Commission rules.
In other words, like Citizens United, these 501(c)4 and (c)6 groups are now free to advocate directly for or against candidates, so long as it’s not their primary mission. I’ve mentioned Americans for Job Security before, but the 60 Plus Association is new (to me) and worth a minute of further discussion.
On its website, the 60 Plus Association says it was founded in 1992 as a “non-partisan seniors advocacy group with a free enterprise, less government, fewer 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).”
Besides billing itself as a “conservative alternative,” one additional difference the 60 Plus Association shares with the AARP is that while the AARP has 40 million members (who found themselves divided over many aspects of Obama’s health care reform bill), the 60 Plus Association is less forthcoming about its membership.
In fact, Sourcewatch.org cites an article written by Bill Hogan for the AARP Bulletin in 2003 that says 60 Plus and other conservative groups ”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 also added that “virtually all of their largest contributions in recent years have come from the same source — the nation’s pharmaceutical industry.”
60 Plus’s current ad buy represents an outlay of over $4 million and will go towards attacking nine House Democrats, according to the AP: “Arizona’s Ann Kirkpatrick, Harry Mitchell and Gabrielle Giffords; Florida’s Allen Boyd, Suzanne Kosmas, and Alan Grayson; Pennsylvania’s Kathy Dahlkemper and Paul Kanjorski; Indiana’s Joe Donnelly, and Ohio’s John Boccieri. It also is airing an ad against Tennessee’s Roy Herron, a Democrat seeking to fill an open seat.”