GOP Medicare troubles continue: Sham front group gives Tipton seniors award

Freshman Colorado Congressman Scott Tipton received an award recently for his work in support of senior citizens from a group called RetireSafe. Tipton was one of 20 Republicans elected to Congress from swing districts to have received the award, according to RollCall, but the award was fake, or at least the group that gave the award was fake. RetireSafe is an industry front group run by Republican and conservative politics figures and founded by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America to push policies that will boost industry profits.

It’s the kind of revelation that has become commonplace in today’s political news, where industry and government figures exchange revolving seats, yet it still has the power to shock in its details.

“Local news reports and campaign advertisements trumpeted the awards…” RollCall writes, “providing these Republicans with valuable political cover for supporting controversial bills, such as the budget proposed by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that would have dramatically revamped Medicare.”

RetireSafe bills itself as a nonpartisan senior citizens advocacy organization, but it is led by former Bush and Reagan administration officials, small-government activists and pharmaceutical industry lobbyists and consultants. It is funded at least in part by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the drug industry’s chief lobbying group, and at times has served as a third-party entity to validate the industry’s agenda….

The award, which sounds a lot like an endorsement that could come from one of dozens of other seniors groups, can then be used as a credential on the campaign trail.

Matt Inzeo, communications director for the Colorado Democratic Party, said the story demonstrated that Republicans like Tipton will have a very hard time this year selling their service-slashing pro-industry priorities to constituents.

“While Scott Tipton stakes his political future on fake awards from front groups, Colorado seniors know he pushed a raw deal on them by trying to turn Medicare into a voucher program,” Inzeo wrote in an email. “Tipton can’t paper over the fact that he would hike seniors’ health care costs by over $6,000 a year, and this charade shows that lame attempts to hide the facts will quickly backfire.”

Tipton has made news in the short months since he took office for accusations of corruption and dirty tricks.

He was investigated by and apologized to a House ethics committee for pushing communication services through his offices for Broadnet, a company where his daughter worked as a lobbyist and where his nephew worked as CEO. More recently he was accused of packing his town meetings with Republicans and mining industry interests by sending out announcements of scheduled meetings to select email lists.

The RetireSafe seniors award shell game seemed to have worked on at least a small scale for Tipton, garnering a brief spot in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. The award presentation ceremony drew members of the Alzheimer’s Association and the Colorado Gerontological Society.

The Sentinel piece:

Tipton’s bill wins kudos from group

A Washington, D-C.-based organization that described itself as a watchdog for personal freedom and advocate for seniors on Social Security and Medicare recognized U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., for sponsoring legislation to repeal a part of the new health care law.

Al Cors Jr., vice president, gave Tipton a plaque recognizing him for sponsoring legislation to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which has the task of reducing the growth of Medicare and is required to implement its first proposals in 2015., which says it represents more than 400,000 seniors, lists health, financial, national and personal security as a pyramid of goals supporting personal freedom.

Representatives of the Alzheimer’s Association and Colorado Gerontological Society attended the presentation.

According the Democratic Party Congressional Committee, the Alliance for Retired Americans on Friday alerted its members that RetireSafe was not to be trusted; it’s a “front group for the pharmaceutical industry” the group wrote in an email. AARP has issued a similar statement. Tipton could not be reached for comment.

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