On March 23, 2011 a group called Revere America issued a dire-sounding PRNewswire press release titled, "Americans Fear Loss of Freedom on Anniversary of Health Care Reform Law." It warned that "a majority" of Americans view health care reform as "a threat to their freedom" and cited a poll by Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies to prove it. The release came well after Revere America had spent $2.5 million on attack ads in the 2010 mid-term elections to defeat Democratic candidates in two states -- New York and New Hampshire -- who had voted in favor of health care reform. Just prior to the mid-term elections, in the autumn of 2010, Revere America ran a a slew of false and misleading attack ads against the health care reform bill that erroneously called health reform "government-run healthcare" (a Republican and insurance industry buzz-phrase). The ads said that the new law will result in higher costs and longer waits in doctors' offices. In another false claim aimed at inducing fear, the ads told viewers that "your right to keep your own doctor may be taken away."
But who, or what, is Revere America? And how did it pull together enough money in less than a year to run a multi-million-dollar attack ad campaign, engage an expensive, professional polling firm and pump their message out on PRNewswire?
"Revere America": Another Veil for a Wealthy Family
Revere America (RA) is a Delaware-based advocacy organization that sprang up in April, 2010. Like so many similar groups springing up after the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United, RA is set up in a way that allows it to accept corporate donations, and that keeps it from having to reveal its funders. RA's titular head at the time of its startup was former New York Governor George Pataki. The group pushes to repeal health reform, also known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which Pataki described a "horrific" and "costly bungle." Donations to RA are not tax deductible, which would seem to make donating huge sums of money to the group less attractive to large numbers of people if it was a real grassroots group made up of ordinary people.
But it turns out that Revere America is not made up of ordinary people, and its primary funder isn't all that concerned about money. According to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and other sources, Revere America's primary funder is Parker J. Collier of Naples, Florida, the wife of Miles Collier, a wealthy Florida land baron and real estate developer. Ms. Collier has given half a million dollars to the Republican Party of Florida, $60,800 to the Republican National Committee, and gave an overall total of $1,239,014 to Republican interests -- and that was just in 2009-2010.
The Collier money flowing towards Republicans and Revere America is old family money. Parker's husband, Miles Collier, is the grandson of Barron Collier, who bought over a million acres in south Florida in the early 1900s, and after whom Collier County, Florida is named. Through their company, Collier Enterprises, the Colliers develop tony yacht, golf and members-only country clubs in southwest Florida, where the rich play, dine and sail. In recent years, Collier Enterprises has even been developing entire towns in Florida.
Influencing Elections Throughout the U.S.
For the Colliers, though, it apparently isn't enough to have all the amenities of uber-wealth. Through Revere America, the family's apparent political front group, the Colliers have also been using their money to influence elections throughout the rest of the country. They have financially supported far-right Republican candidates not only in New York and New Hampshire, but in many other states, including Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota), Senator Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts), and Republican Sue Lowden in her failed primary bid to gain the Senate nomination in Nevada, to name just a few. The list of Republican candidates RA funded and Democrats they worked to defeat in the 2010 election cycle numbers over 100, with some elections meriting six figure donations -- amounts that far exceed what individuals can legally donate to influence an election.
The professional Republican pollster doing work for RA, Bill McInturff, conducted the message and advertisement testing for the infamous "Harry and Louise" television commercials that helped defeat the Clinton-era health care reform effort. Some of McInturf's other clients include insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, America's Health Insurance Plans (the health insurance industry's lobbying group) and drug maker Pfizer -- all of which have a stake in undermining health care reform.
Pataki resigned as RA's chairman in February, 2011, citing a Florida judge's ruling the same month that the new health reform law's federal mandate to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional. Pataki cited this ruling, and the House of Representatives' symbolic vote to repeal health reform, as creating a good time for him to step down, and as proof that RA had been "successfully launched." RA's spokesperson and president is now Florida attorney Marianne R.P. Zuk, who is listed in Florida incorporation records as an officer or director for several Collier-owned companies.
Revere America is a "grassroots group" for the uber-wealthy Collier family in the same way that Americans for Prosperity is a "grassroots" group for the uber-wealthy Koch brothers. Such groups are conduits through which the super-rich are increasingly exerting powerful influence over elections nationwide. RA is yet another group that demonstrates the growing trend in which the wealthiest Americans -- in the forms of both human beings and corporations -- use their money to create fake "grassroots" front groups to hide behind and influence elections across the U.S.
Be on the look out for many more such groups to crop up in the future as the richest one or two percent of U.S. citizens come under increasing pressure to pay their fair share of taxes, and as we move closer to the 2012 elections.