First, note that Chuck Woolery is a paid spokesperson for Generation America, a membership organization in direct competition with the AARP. If you follow Woolery’s Twitter account, though, you also know he’s a proud “tea party guy” and libertarian conservative, so it’s no surprise he’s not just taping commercials and cashing the check.
Woolery’s tweet links to an article on Generation America’s site exposing AARP’s connections to the Obama administration. After the President cited AARP as an Obamacare supporter during first presidential debate, the organization quickly issued a statement to create some distance:
While we respect the rights of each campaign to make its case to voters, AARP has never consented to the use of its name by any candidate or political campaign. AARP is a nonpartisan organization and we do not endorse political candidates nor coordinate with any candidate or political party.
Emails on Generation America’s site, though, tell of a much closer relationship between the Obama administration and the AARP. More than 70 pages of emails between AARP and the White House show cooperation to win support for Obamacare during 2009 and 2010, despite what looks like an overwhelming rejection of Obamacare by AARP’s own members.
One email tells of record call volume to AARP the day following the president’s participation in an AARP town hall meeting. According to the email, callers were concerned about “care rationing for seniors and ‘end of life’ counseling as a euphemism for euthanasia” and “perceived partisanship on AARP’s part.”
In a Sept. 20 letter from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to AARP President Robert Romasco, the committee noted that calls to AARP from its members that day showed them standing 14 to 1 against the passage of Obamacare. The organization received more than 4,000 calls opposing Obamacare as opposed to only 36 in favor.
Emails between White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina and AARP Senior Vice President Nancy LeaMond show the two working together to do the “heavy lifting” of pushing legislation AARP’s members didn’t want. In November 2009, LeaMond wrote to Messina about her “concerns about extended coherent, strong messaging by Republicans on the Medicare savings in the bill” and asking “to work closely with whomever [in the administration] is managing that part of the debate.”
Another November 2009 email from AARP to the White House advises keeping “a little space between us and the White House” as AARP polling “shows we are more influential when we are seen as independent.”
It appears the White House was happy to narrow that space when it helped politically. In a December 2009 letter from Messina to LeaMond, he writes:
We need [AARP CEO] Barry Rand to go meet with [Florida Senator] Bill Nelson personally and just lay it on the line. We will be with you, we will protect you. But if you kill this bill, seniors will not forget.
We are at 59 [Senate votes], we have to have him.
Nelson eventually voted to pass Obamacare despite having earlier criticized the associated cuts to Medicare as “unconscionable” and a “non-starter.”
It’s not surprising then, that the “nonpartisan” AARP was so eager to back away from Obama after the group’s mention at the first debate, not unlike the “nonpartisan” Sesame Workshop’s request that the Obama campaign stop using Big Bird in its ads after PBS funding became an issue.
Generation America has extensive documentation on its site, but these tweeters have the condensed version.
No word yet in response from AARP, but the group is offering tips on how to be heard effectively.
Is your mate listening? Does it matter? Is AARP listening? Not to its members, apparently.