Generation Opportunity

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Generation Opportunity (GenOp) is a conservative non-profit 501(c)(4) organization targeting young people based in Arlington, Virginia. On the group's website, its describes itself as "a free-thinking, liberty-loving, national organization of young people promoting the best of Being American: opportunity, creativity and freedom."[1]

Koch Connection

The Koch Brothers are the conservative billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.

Ties to the Koch Brothers

As a 501(c)(4) organization, Generation Opportunity is not required to disclose its donors.[2] However, Generation Opportunity has been referred to by the New York Times as "a Koch-financed group focusing on young voters," and by Mother Jones as "a Koch-backed group targeting young voters."[3][4]

Self-described as a, "nonprofit, nonpartisan organization," Generation Opportunity espouses a right-leaning agenda and shares the aims of other notable organizations funded by the Koch Brothers.[5]

In 2012, a Koch Brothers funding group, Freedom Partners, invested $5 million dollars in Generation Opportunity. The investment was part of a larger $250 million dollar campaign by Freedom Partners to "shape policy and political debate nationwide," according to Politico.[6]

Strategic Use of Social Media

The group's altered profile picture.

Based on their use of misleading social media tactics, Generation Opportunity claimed in 2011 that it was "one of the largest and fastest growing organizations targeting young Americans through social media, issue education, and grassroots mobilization."[7] In August 2011, blogger Kevin Bondelli posted a breakdown on Future Majority explaining how GenOp appeared to have grown so quickly.[8] The following timeline was constructed by Bondelli:

  • "In November of 2010, someone associated with what is now Generation Opportunity created a non-profit page called 'Being American' in order to mislead people into becoming fans."
  • "On May 28, 2011, the page publishes a post about a new organization called Generation Opportunity asking people to sign up for the email list on the website. The profile picture is changed to add the Generation Opportunity logo at the bottom, though the thumbnail remained unchanged." (see image on right)
  • "On May 31, 2011, the page again solicits list sign-ups for a new organization, not mentioning to their fans that they themselves are the new organization."
"Anyone who has liked 'Being American' on Facebook because they like being American is unwillingly being counted as a supporter of this organization, and Generation Opportunity is using these people as 'evidence' that they are legitimate and 'one of the largest and fastest growing organizations targeting young Americans.' This is astroturfing 2.0."

Since this article was released, Generation Opportunity has deleted the posts on May 28 and May 31 used in Bondelli's timeline.

In press releases and other public statements, the organization frequently refers to Generation Opportunity's "over 4 million young adult followers."[9] However, this number appears to refer to the 'likes' on the group's numerous Facebook pages, including "Being American by GO", "The Constitution by GO", "Gas Prices Are Too Damn High", and "Keep Texas Awesome," among others. There is no indication that this number is anything other than the sum of all of these likes, which may or may not be controlled for users who may like more than one of these pages. In May 2013, the "Generation Opportunity" page itself had 714 "likes."

Obamacare Opt-Out Campaign

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"Opt Out- The Exam"
"Opt Out- The Glove"

Generation Opportunity is perhaps best known for their web and television advertisements urging young people to "opt out" of Obamacare. As Time reporter Kate Pickert described:

"The spots feature a creepy, clownish Uncle Sam character performing gynecological and prostate exams on patients who signed up for insurance under the [Affordable Care Act]. 'Don't let the government play doctor. Opt out of Obamacare,' the ads tell viewers."[10]

In these ads, Generation Opportunity characterizes the Affordable Care Act as an invasion of private health services. Many commentators, including Lucia Graves of the National Journal, have critiqued the commercials for their use of scare tactics, by drawing on the imagery of "forcibl[e] rape".[11]

This intrusive depiction of Obamacare has also been criticized for its irony. As Eric Ferrero, vice president for communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America stated:

"These are the same extreme Koch-funded political groups who have tried to pass transvaginal ultrasound laws and other laws allowing politicians to interfere with people's personal medical decisions. These videos are the height of hyprocrisy, but more importantly they are irresponsible and dangerous, designed to spread misinformation and discourage people from getting access to high quality, affordable health care."[12]

Generation Opportunity's message is simple: young people are better off paying a penalty for being uninsured than they are purchasing health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Generation Opportunity says they aim only to, "educate [young people] on their options..." claiming, "most young people will find it a better deal (and a lot less creepy) to opt out of Obamacare." [13]

However, Generation Opportunity's communications director, David Pasch, "wasn't able to confirm that buying a plan on the individual market would be cheaper than buying one under Obamacare." As Pasch told the Atlantic Wire, "We're a small non-profit,without the funds to do research about plans in every state." Allie Jones of the Atlantic Wire argues the group cannot confirm that "opting out" of Obamacare is a better deal, because the "math" does not support that assertion. According to her calculations, even the cheapest plan recommended by Generation Opportunity would, after "opting out," be more expensive for purchasers than a "bronze level plan" under the Affordable Care Act. Not to mention, the "bronze" plan would offer greater coverage of services, and would be available to a wider range of young people than the unapproved private plan.[13] Without the calculations to back up their position, Generation Opportunity relies heavily on their own advertisements to persuade viewers to be concerned about the "creep" factor of government approved healthcare.[13]

College Campus Campaign

Generation Opportunity spends a significant amount of funds on "youth targeted" events. In September of 2013, the group announced plans to spend "up to $750,000 on a 'messaging push and tour'" to encourage young people to 'opt out' of the Affordable Care Act. The tour includes:

"...host[ing] events at college football tailgate parties, . . . where 'brand ambassadors' (read: hot young people) will pass out beer koozies that read 'opt out,' pizza and literature about the health care law. Some events may have impromptu dance parties with DJ’s, complete with games of cornhole and competitions for prizes, organizers said."[14]

The "tour of 20 college towns" included a stop at a bar near Virginia Tech University's campus on October 12, 2013. Students were given "free beer, gift cards and the chance to win an iPad." Generation Opportunity plans to upload pictures of participating young people, "signing petitions to opt out" on to "Twitter, Facebook and Instagram."[15]

Affiliated Sites

In order to reach their target demographic who they identify as "Millennials ages 18-29," Generation Opportunity utilizes a number of profiles.

Personnel

Paul Conway, the former president of Generation Opportunity, has worked with the conservative Heritage Foundation and Leadership Institute and served as chief of staff for former Bush Labor Secretary and current Heritage employee Elaine Chao.[16]

After the 2012 elections, Paul Conway was replaced as president by Evan Feinberg. The group has not released information on the composition of their board of directors.

Staff

  • Evan Feinberg - President[17]
  • Matthew Faraci - Senior Vice President for Communications[18]
  • David Pasch - Communications Director[19]
  • Terence Grado - Director of National and State Policy[20]

Former Staff

  • Paul Conway - Former President
  • Sean Kibby - Former Director of Strategic National Operations[21]

Contact Information

Mailing Address:
Generation Opportunity
PO Box 100716
Arlington, VA 22210
Email: info@generationopportunity.org
Phone: (703) 566-9800
Web: http://generationopportunity.org/

References

  1. Generation Opportunity, Who We Are, organizational website, accessed May 24, 2013.
  2. Susan Webb, Generation Opportunity: Another Republican Stealth Group, Peoplesworld.org, August 6, 2012.
  3. Nicholas Confessore, Koch Brothers Plan More Political Involvement for Their Conservative Network, New York Times, April 30, 2013.
  4. Andy Kroll, Extreme Makeover: Koch Brothers Edition, Mother Jones, February 21, 2013.
  5. Fredreka Schouten, Koch-Backed Group Launches New Attack On Healthcare Law, USA TODAY, September 19, 2013.
  6. Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei, The Koch Brothers Secret Bank, POLITICO, September 11, 2013.
  7. Generation Opportunity, As Americans Prepare To Celebrate July 4th – Majority Of Millennials Embrace American Exceptionalism, organizational press release, July 1, 2011.
  8. Kevin Bondelli, Generation Opportunity Revealed, Future Majority blog, accessed via Wayback Machine, posted August 22, 2011, archived September 25, 2011.
  9. Generation Opportunity, Press Releases, organizational website, accessed May 29, 2013.
  10. Kate Pickert,Spread Your Legs for Uncle Sam: The Real Meaning of the Creepy New Anti-Obamacare Ads, Time, September 19, 2013.
  11. Lucia Graves,Right Wing Ad Equates Obamacare and Rape, National Journal, September 19, 2013.
  12. Irin Carmon,'Creepy Uncle Sam' Would Like to Give You a Pelvic Exam, MSNBC, September 19, 2013.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Allie Jones, The Group Telling Young People to Opt Out of Obamacare is Still Working On Its Math, October 2, 2013.
  14. Chris Moody, Obamacare Battle Moves to College Campuses, Yahoo News, September 19, 2013.
  15. Alex Leary, Opt Out of Obamacare is Conservative Group's Message to Young People, Tampa Bay Times, October 13, 2013.
  16. John Dunbar, ‘Nonpartisan’ youth movement has deep GOP roots, The Center for Public Integrity, November 1, 2011, updated May 14, 2012.
  17. Hank Richards, Youth unemployment rate hovers at 16.1 percent, Examiner.com, May 6, 2013.
  18. Generation Opportunity, December’s Millennial Jobs Report: Youth Unemployment at 11.5 Percent, press release, January 4, 2013.
  19. Brian Hughes, THE 3-MINUTE INTERVIEW: David Pasch, Washington Examiner, December 23, 2012.
  20. Generation Opportunity, Millennial Jobs Report: Youth Unemployment Reaches 13.1 Percent as U.S. Economy Shrinks, press release, February 1, 2013.
  21. Generation Opportunity, As Inauguration Approaches, Young Adults Ask President Obama to Remember the Next Generation, press release, January 18, 2013.