In September 2004, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who voted against the prescription drug program, took to the floor to criticize RetireSafe for paying health care consultants to publicly endorse the program through DCI Group, a Washington consulting firm. At the time, DCI Group also represented PhRMA, one of the most vocal supporters of Part D, federal records show.
A spokesman for DCI Group did not respond to Roll Call’s request for comment, but Phillips said his organization has no relationship with the firm.
Today, RetireSafe is opposing Democratic efforts to require drug manufacturers to pay a rebate to the government for drugs sold to low-income seniors through Medicare Part D. The move is fiercely opposed by the pharmaceutical industry.
The organization’s Republican and industry ties also raise questions about its independence.
Al Cors Jr., RetireSafe’s vice president, served as the vice president for government affairs at the National Taxpayers Union, directed legislative and political affairs for the National Tax Limitation Committee and lobbied for the National Rifle Association.
Marianne Eterno, a RetireSafe board member, is the assistant vice president of government relations at the Guarantee Trust Life Insurance Co., a health, accident, life and special risk insurance company based in Illinois. Her biography on the company’s website says she is “very active in the various industry associations” such as America’s Health Insurance Plans and the American Council of Life Insurers.
Jim Marquez, another RetireSafe board member, served as general counsel for the Transportation Department during the Reagan administration, and Charles Partridge, also on the board, served on former President George W. Bush’s presidential transition advisory team.
Phillips dismissed the accusations and noted that RetireSafe has given its award to 11 Democrats.
“RetireSafe and its board of directors support a broad spectrum of issues that impact older Americans, including Social Security, health care, their financial well-being and personal security,” he said. “We have always been focused on these issues and have supported and will continue to support those in Washington who stand with us, regardless of their party affiliation.”
In 2010, the group reported spending more than $600,000 on grass-roots lobbying and direct lobbying of the legislative and executive branches, according to documents filed with the IRS. Phillips and Cors are registered to lobby on behalf of RetireSafe.
It has also sided with other seniors groups, such as AARP, in several instances.
RetireSafe opposes raising the retirement age and is fighting for the repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a 15-member unelected panel established by the new health care law and charged with reducing the growth of Medicare. More than 200 House lawmakers, including a growing number of Democrats, the most recent of whom is Rep. Barney Frank (Mass.), have co-sponsored a bill that would do away with the panel.
But Phillips, like most Republicans, said the advisory board is not the only problem with the health care law and that repeal is likely the best option.
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