Poliquin brags about award from Koch-funded pro-Social Security privatization group

Rep. Bruce Poliquin speaks during the Maine Republican Convention on May 5 in Augusta. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

At a time when people want larger Social Security benefits and higher taxes on the wealthy to fund them, Rep. Bruce Poliquin is bragging about receiving an award from a Koch brothers funded group that supports privatizing Social Security and Medicare.

I haven’t seen any publicity about this from Poliquin’s campaign or congressional office, but two days ago my household received a letter dated July 12 from the latter saying the congressman “was honored to receive the Guardian of Seniors’ Rights award for 2018.”

You can see the letter below and can see the portion quoted just below the envelope.

July 12, 2018 letter from Rep. Bruce Poliquin (Source: author’s files).

As the letter doesn’t say who gave Poliquin this award, I Googled the name of the award and found numerous Republicans saying they got it, too.

Some of the Republicans listed in their press releases the name of the group — the 60 Plus Association.

And, according to multiple sources, the 60 Plus Association is part of the Koch network.

As political scientists Theda Skocpol and Alexander Hertel-Fernandez noted in 2016, “During the Bush-senior presidential administration of the 1990s, the Kochs also sponsored the 60 Plus Association to press for privatization of Social Security and health programs for senior citizens as well as the elimination of the estate tax.” The group also opposed the Affordable Care Act.

A 2014 article in the Washington Post and an accompanying chart of the Koch network includes 60 Plus, and the article notes, “the money flows through a complex maze of tax-exempt groups and limited liability corporations, creating multiple barriers that shield the identities of the donors.”

The group’s own website stresses its aversion to the estate tax, which hits only the very wealthiest Americans, while supporting the now-departed and rather corrupt EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and touting Trump administration policies helping the coal industry. The Kochs are heavily involved in the old energy business and they strongly oppose environmental regulation.

Some takeaways about Poliquin’s award:

1. Poliquin used his congressional office to publicize the award directly to certain constituents while leaving out the name of the group that gave it. I assume I got this taxpayer-funded letter because I’m a woman of a certain age, but who knows.

2. Leaving out the name of the group limits what people receiving the letter know. Unless one did some research, you’d not know anything about the award-giver, and certainly not its agenda and Koch ties.

3. Why did Poliquin get the award? Look at health and tax policy. As early as 2015, Poliquin voted for a budget that would turn Medicare into a voucher program. Last year he voted for a bill that repealed the Affordable Care Act and slashed Medicaid (while falsely claiming the bill would affect just 7% of Mainers, a claim which excluded the bill’s impact on people with preexisting conditions, older people, people in rural areas, children who use special education services and veterans). In supporting the Trump tax bill, Poliquin voted for a windfall for very wealthy heirs.  All of those are policies supported by the Kochs and 60 Plus.

4. Poliquin’s policy positions on Social Security and the financial sector are also relevant to the award. During his first run for Congress, Poliquin was open about his desire to at least partially privatize Social Security for future recipients and to raise the Social Security retirement age. These policies would cut benefits for future recipients and would make quite a lot of money for Wall Streeters even as the securities and investment sector is the top funder of Poliquin’s campaign. Again, these are policies supported by the Kochs and 60 Plus.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.