Alan K. Simpson

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Alan K. Simpson is a former Republican U.S. Senator from Wyoming (1979-1997). Best known as a former chair of the Senate Finance Committee's subcommittee on Social Security, Simpson began a crusade against federal social programs as a member of the 1994 Bipartisan Commission on Entitlements and Tax Reform (billionaire Peter Peterson, then at Blackstone Group, was also a member of the commission). According to journalist Saul Friedman and consumer and medical affairs writer Trudy Lieberman, after the AARP weighed in to oppose the right wing's efforts to slash Social Security and Medicare, Simpson joined forces with the Scaife-funded Capital Research Center in an effort to destroy the organization and the labor-backed National Council of Senior Citizens (NCSC).[1] Backed by right wing groups, Simpson held hearings in April 1995 into AARP's finances and waged a relentless campaign against it.[2] NCSC folded (it was eventually succeeded by the Alliance for Retired Americans).[3] AARP's leadership was changed and public relations executive William Novelli, a Republican, took over, dramatically shifting the organization's direction and eventually backing George W. Bush's Part D drug program and subsidies to Medicare Advantage. "Those plans," writes Freidman, "then called Medicare Plus Choice, became the first wedge in the privatization of Medicare in 1997." The privatization scheme became part of the 1997 Balanced Budget Agreement, pushed through by Clinton administration chief of staff Erskine Bowles, who eventually co-chaired the Simpson-Bowles Commission with Simpson.

Ties to Pete Peterson's "Fix the Debt"

The Campaign to Fix the Debt is the latest incarnation of a decades-long effort by former Nixon man turned Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson to slash earned benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare under the guise of fixing the nation's "debt problem."

Simpson is the co-founder, along with Erskine B. Bowles, of the Fix the Debt campaign of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB). He is also on CRFB's board.[4]

This article is part of the Center for Media and Democracy's investigation of Pete Peterson's Campaign to "Fix the Debt." Please visit our main SourceWatch page on Fix the Debt.

About Fix the Debt
The Campaign to Fix the Debt is the latest incarnation of a decades-long effort by former Nixon man turned Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson to slash earned benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare under the guise of fixing the nation's "debt problem." Through a special report and new interactive wiki resource, the Center for Media and Democracy -- in partnership with the Nation magazine -- exposes the funding, the leaders, the partner groups, and the phony state "chapters" of this astroturf supergroup. Learn more at and in the Nation magazine.

Inconsistent and Controversial Statements on Social Security

Simpson made some highly controversial comments disparaging Social Security and its beneficiaries and advocates related to his failed proposal to gut Social Security while co-chairing the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (see more below).

In an email to Ashley Carson, Executive Director of the Older Women’s League, Simpson said about Social Security, "And yes, I’ve made some plenty smart cracks about people on Social Security who milk it to the last degree. You know 'em too. It’s the same with any system in America. We’ve reached a point now where it’s like a milk cow with 310 million tits!"[5]

In 2012, Simpson referred to seniors advocating against the cuts to Social Security that Simpson and Bowles recommended as "greedy geezers."[6]

However, before Alan Simpson hated Social Security and wanted to gut it, he was an apparent advocate for protecting it. In 1996, while a U.S. Senator, Simpson filed a non-binding "sense of the Senate" that told the truth about how the financing of the program works, namely: "[S]ocial security is currently a self-financed program that is not contributing to the Federal budget deficit," and, "[S]ocial security beneficiaries throughout the nation deserve to be reassured that their benefits will not be subject to cuts."[7]

Simpson-Bowles Commission

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (often called Bowles-Simpson/Simpson-Bowles from the names of co-chairs Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles; or NCFRR) is a Presidential Commission created in 2010 by President Barack Obama to identify "…policies to improve the fiscal situation in the medium term and to achieve fiscal sustainability over the long run." The commission first met on April 27, 2010, but failed to reach the super-majority needed to pass a final plan and trigger a vote in Congress. A chairmen's report first issued in November 2010, then in December is often referenced as the Simpson-Bowles plan.[8][9]

The plan contained painful austerity measures that critics contended would further weaken the economic recovery. The plan called for cuts in benefits for the elderly, veterans, and many government employees. Most importantly, it would have cut the Social Security "cost of living" or COLA increase. Reduced COLA would amount to a benefit cut of close to 3 percent for a typical retired worker. Since the median income for households of people over age 65 is just $31,000, this would be a big hit to a segment of the population that is already struggling. [10]

President Obama implicitly called for cutting Social Security by three percent and phasing in an increase in the normal retirement age to 69 when he endorsed the Simpson-Bowles plan.

On March 28, 2012, Representatives Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Steve LaTourette (R-OH) put a bill modeled on Simpson-Bowles, with, according to analyst Ezra Klein, "somewhat less in tax increases," to a vote in the House where it was rejected 382 to 38. 22 Democrats and 16 Republicans supported the bill.[11][12]

Other Corporate Ties

Simpson, a former member of the boards of American Express Funds (now Ameriprise), Biogen, and Pacific Corporation, has also served on the BP America External Advisory Council.[13]


Alan Kooi Simpson was born September 2, 1931 in Denver, Colorado, but raised in Cody, Wyoming. His father, Milward L. Simpson, was also a U.S. Senator from Wyoming (1962-1967) and governor of Wyoming (1955-1959). He received a Bachelor of Science in Law from the University of Wyoming in 1954. He joined the Army after college, and married that summer to the former Ann Schroll of Greybull, Wyoming. He was ordered to Fort Benning, Georgia in November 1954, serving in German until his honorable discharge in 1956. He then returned to the University of Wyoming to study for his Juris Doctorate degree, completed in 1958. He was admitted to the Wyoming Bar and the United States District Court in 1958.[14]

From 1965 to 1077, Simpson was in the Wyoming House of Representatives, holding the offices of Majority Whip, Majority Floor Leader, and Speaker Pro-Tem. In 1978, he was elected to the United States Senate. He was Assistant Majority Leader from 1984 until 1994. He completed his final term on January 3, 1997.[14]

From 1998 to 2000, Simpson was visiting Lecturer and the Director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Since 2000 he has been a Visiting Lecturer in the Political Science Department at the University of Wyoming. He is a partner in the Cody and Denver law firm of Burg Simpson Eldredge and Hersh and a consultant in the Washington D.C. government relations firm, The Tongour-Simpson Group.[15]

Simpson was appointed in early 2006 to the Iraq Study Group at the congressionally chartered U.S. Institute of Peace.[16]

Other ties include:

Resources and Articles

Featured SourceWatch Articles on Fix the Debt


  1. Saul Friedman, "Gray Matters: A Reach Too Far--Who is Alan Simpson?", Huffington Post, February 27, 2010.
  2. Barbara Dreyfuss, "The Seduction", The American Prospect, May 12, 2004.
  3. AARP, "Home Page", organizational website, accessed January 1, 2013.
  4. Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Board, organizational site, accessed January 2013.
  5. Alan Simpson, Email to Ashley Carson, 2010.
  6. Alan Simpson, Email to the California Association of Retired Americans, reported in Politico, May 23 2012.
  7. Ian Gray, Alan Simpson As a Senator Said Social Security Should Not Be Cut, Huffington Post, November 28 2012.
  8. Executive Order -- National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, Feb. 18, 2010.
  9. About the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform
  10. Dean Baker, Erskine Bowles: An Object Lesson, The Guardian, September 10, 2012, Accessed January 7, 2013
  11. Ezra Klein, Wonkbook: House reaches bipartisan deal to reject Simpson-Bowles The Washington Post - WonkBlog, March 29, 2012, Accessed January 7, 2013
  12. Andrew Taylor, Simpson-Bowles Plan Rejected By House, The Huffington Post, March 28, 2012, Accessed January 7, 2013
  13. Hon. Alan K. Simpson, paid attorney advertisement, accessed February 2013.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, Simpson, Alan Kooi (1931- ), congressional biography, accessed February 2013.
  15. Speakers Platform, Alan Simpson, speaker's biography, accessed February 2013.
  16. FindLaw, Hon. Alan K. Simpson, lawyer biography, accessed July 27, 2007.
  17. Former U.S. Senator Alan K. Simpson Elected to Biogen Board of Directors, PRNewswire, accessed July 26, 2007.
  18. Alan Simpson to join PacifiCorp board, Portland Business Journal, accessed July 26, 2007.