Follow the money in the Koch wiki.
This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.
Generation Opportunity (GenOp) is a non-profit 501(c)(4) organization based in Arlington, Virginia funded by Freedom Partners, a multimillion dollar Koch-tied funding vehicle. On the group's website, it describes itself as "a free-thinking, liberty-loving, national organization of young people promoting the best of Being American: opportunity, creativity and freedom." According to OpenSecrets, "[i]n the three years for which tax information is available, Generation Opportunity has raised almost 86 percent of its funds from just two Koch-linked nonprofits."
In 2014, Generation opportunity spent big money in Senate races against three Democrats: Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Mark Udall (D-CO). Mary Bottari reported on prwatch.org that, "Gen Opp spent a total of $900,000 against Udall, $825,000 against Hagan, and $550,000 against Landrieu, bringing the ad buy to $2.275 million."
The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing 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.
- 1 Ties to the Koch Brothers
- 2 2014 Election Cycle Ad Buys
- 3 Affordable Care Act Opt-Out Campaign
- 4 Misleading Tactics to Grow Social Media Followers
- 5 Affiliated Sites
- 6 Personnel
- 7 Core Financials
- 8 Contact Information
- 9 Articles and Resources
Ties to the Koch Brothers
As a 501(c)(4) organization, Generation Opportunity is not required to disclose its donors. However, according to OpenSecrets, "[i]n the three years for which tax information is available, Generation Opportunity has raised almost 86 percent of its funds from just two Koch-linked nonprofits."
According to its 2012 tax filing, Freedom Partners gave $5,040,000 to "TRGN LLC (GENERATION OPPORTUNITY." The Freedom Partners investment was part of a larger $250 million dollar campaign by Freedom Partners to "shape policy and political debate nationwide," according to Politico.
2014 Election Cycle Ad Buys
Generation Opportunity, a 501(c)(4) organization, launched ad buys in several targeted Senate races in 2014, including ads against Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Mark Udall (D-CO), costing over $2 million.
According to a report by the Center for Public Integrity, the Koch brothers' network had put out more than 43,900 ads related to Senate races by September 1, 2014, nearly one-tenth of the total number of ads run for all Senate races. That number included "the six most active nonprofit groups in the Koch brothers’ coalition: Americans for Prosperity, the American Energy Alliance, Concerned Veterans for America, the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, Generation Opportunity and the 60 Plus Association."
See detailed state-by-state totals from the Center for Public Integrity here.
The organization launched two basic ads in multiple states. One ad, used against Landrieu and Udall, caricatured the senators. In the ad, the two were played by actors and were depicted as children in a shopping cart, who appear to be gleefully overspending on unnecessary items. The ad criticized their votes on government spending, claiming they were footing younger generations with the bill.
Another, running against both Hagan and Udall, featured a young woman complaining about the economic hardship she claims faces her generation. Among other things, she criticizes the senators for votes on spending bills that “crippled [the] economy” and claims they are “forcing [them] to buy healthcare [they] can’t afford.” At the end of the ad, she urges the audience to call Hagan and Udall and tell them to “stop spending [her] generation’s future.”
Generation Opportunity spent a total of $900,000 against Udall, $825,000 against Hagan, and $550,000 against Landrieu, bringing the total of the ad buys to $2.275 million. The ad buys were both on television and online.
Affordable Care Act Opt-Out Campaign
"Creepy" Uncle Sam TV Ads
Generation Opportunity is perhaps best known for their web and television advertisements urging young people to "opt out" of the Affordable Care Act. 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."
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".
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 noted:
- "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."
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." 
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. 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.
Generation Opportunity released another "Creepy Uncle Sam" ad on May 14, 2014, this time focusing on technical problems in the initial rollout of the ACA website. The ad shows the Creepy Uncle Sam character in an empty hospital corridor tossing money in the air, followed by the slogan "Obamacare: Making it rain on glitchy IT contractors."
Generation Opportunity posted an image to its Facebook page in December 2013 that claimed "Obamacare could force thousands of volunteer fire stations to cut services or close entirely!" Politifact rated the claim "half-true," and later reported that final guidelines issued by the Treasury Department in February 2014 exempted volunteer fire stations from the requirement to provide insurance.
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."
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."
Misleading Tactics to Grow Social Media Followers
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." In August 2011, blogger Kevin Bondelli posted a breakdown on Future Majority explaining how GenOp appeared to have grown so quickly. 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." 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."
In order to reach their target demographic who they identify as "Millennials ages 18-29," Generation Opportunity utilizes a number of profiles.
- Facebook.com - "Generation Opportunity"
- Facebook.com - "Being American by GO"
- Facebook.com - "The Constitution by GO"
- Facebook.com - "Gas Prices Are Too Damn High"
- Facebook.com - "Keep Texas Awesome"
- Twitter.com - "GenOpportunity"
- Pinterest.com - "Generation Opportunity"
Generation Opportunity has not released information on the composition of its board of directors. The following people are listed on the group's 2012 tax filings:
- Terrence Linderman, Trustee
- Paul Conway, Executive Director. Conway is the former president of Generation Opportunity and has worked with the right-wing Heritage Foundation and Leadership Institute, and served as chief of staff for former Bush Labor Secretary and current Heritage employee Elaine Chao. After the 2012 elections, Paul Conway was replaced as president by Evan Feinberg.
- Amber Roseboom, key employee
- Matthew Faraci, key employee. Faraci is Senior Vice President for Communications
As of June 2014, Generation Opportunity maintained a page listing over 40 staff members, but did not list their positions or titles. These staff are listed below. In September 2015, CNN reported that more than half of Generation Opportunity's staff had left their jobs, including organization president Evan Feinberg.
- Evan Feinberg - Former President. Feinberg left the organization in June 2015 to found a new Koch network organization, Stand Together for America.
- Terence Grado, Director of National and State Policy
- Nick Bailey
- Sarah Belknap
- Lily Belt
- Peter Buckingham
- Jonathan Callaway,
- Wesley Coopersmith
- Charity Corkey
- Will Cousins
- Mathew de la Fe
- Jackie Ellis
- Kristie Eshelman
- Ryan Flood
- Brandon Gahman
- Julie Germany
- Alex Goodman
- Zachary Henry
- Mike Hopper
- Aaron Houlihan
- Rachael Jensen
- Alex Johnson
- Ariel Judah
- Luke Kenworthy
- Sharon Koss
- Nathan Leamer
- Patrice Lee
- Daisy Letendre
- Brian Lyle
- Emily Lyons
- Greg Markle
- Logan Moore
- Mary Mueller
- Nick Pappas
- David Pasch, Communications Director
- Stephanie Schwartz
- Jeff Scully
- Katie Shupe
- Nicole Spala
- Neil Boylan Strauss
- Peter Tariche
- Joe Tate
- Stephanie Terek
- Daniel Turner
- Alex Vargo
- William Varley
- Christopher Venning
- Corie Whalen Stephens
- Paul Conway - Former President
- Sean Kibby - Former Director of Strategic National Operations
2011 For the period June 1, 2011-May 31, 2012
- Total Revenue: $4,581,027
- Total Expenses: $3,980,679
- Net Assets: $1,033,525
2010 For the period June 1, 2010-May 31, 2011
- Total Revenue: $2,000,962
- Total Expenses: $1,583,735
- Net Assets: $417,227
PO Box 100716
Arlington, VA 22210
Phone: (703) 566-9800
Articles and Resources
- Mary Bottari and Sean Hoey, Shocker! Koch Youth Group Backs Koch Politician Signing Koch-Approved ALEC Bill, PR Watch, July 24, 2014.
Related SourceWatch Articles
- Koch Brothers
- Koch Family Foundations
- Americans for Prosperity
- Freedom Partners
- Cato Institute
- Heritage Foundation
- Koch Universities
- Koch Network
- Knowledge and Progress Fund
- American Encore
- Donors Capital
- 60 Plus
- Generation Opportunity
- Generation Opportunity, Who We Are, organizational website, accessed May 24, 2013.
- Viveca Fox, "GenOpp, Too: Another Group Almost Wholly Funded by Koch Network," OpenSecrets, May 13, 2014. Accessed June 5, 2014.
- Mary Bottari, Koch-Tied Youth Group Weighs in on Senate Races, "PRwatch" July 3, 2014.
- Susan Webb, Generation Opportunity: Another Republican Stealth Group, Peoplesworld.org, August 6, 2012.
- Freedom Partners, "2012 Form 990," organizational filing, accessed May 28, 2014.
- Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei, The Koch Brothers Secret Bank, POLITICO, September 11, 2013.
- TC4 Trust, "2012 Form 990," organizational filing, accessed May 28, 2014.
- Nicholas Confessore, Koch Brothers Plan More Political Involvement for Their Conservative Network, New York Times, April 30, 2013.
- Andy Kroll, Extreme Makeover: Koch Brothers Edition, Mother Jones, February 21, 2013.
- Fredreka Schouten, Koch-Backed Group Launches New Attack On Healthcare Law, USA TODAY, September 19, 2013.
- Michael Beckel, "GOP’s Senate hopes energized by Koch network ad blitz," Center for Public Integrity, press release, September 3, 2014. Accessed September 10, 2014.
- Generation Opportunity, $900k Colorado Ad Buy Puts Grassroots Pressure On Senator Mark Udall, GenerationOpportunity.org, June 25, 2014.
- Generation Opportunity, Generation Opportunity Launches New Ad Campaign In North Carolina, GenerationOpportunity.org, June 11, 2014.
- Generation Opportunity, Generation Opportunity Launches New Ad Campaign in Louisiana, GenerationOpportunity.org, June 19, 2014.
- Kate Pickert,Spread Your Legs for Uncle Sam: The Real Meaning of the Creepy New Anti-Obamacare Ads, Time, September 19, 2013.
- Lucia Graves,Right Wing Ad Equates Obamacare and Rape, National Journal, September 19, 2013.
- Irin Carmon,'Creepy Uncle Sam' Would Like to Give You a Pelvic Exam, MSNBC, September 19, 2013.
- Allie Jones, The Group Telling Young People to Opt Out of Obamacare is Still Working On Its Math, October 2, 2013.
- Steve Contorno, "The federal health care law and volunteer firefighters," Politifact, February 11, 2014. Accessed May 28, 2014.
- Chris Moody, Obamacare Battle Moves to College Campuses, Yahoo News, September 19, 2013.
- Alex Leary, Opt Out of Obamacare is Conservative Group's Message to Young People, Tampa Bay Times, October 13, 2013.
- Generation Opportunity, As Americans Prepare To Celebrate July 4th – Majority Of Millennials Embrace American Exceptionalism, organizational press release, July 1, 2011.
- Kevin Bondelli, Generation Opportunity Revealed, Future Majority blog, accessed via Wayback Machine, posted August 22, 2011, archived September 25, 2011.
- Generation Opportunity, Press Releases, organizational website, accessed May 29, 2013.
- Generation Opportunity, 2011 IRS form 990, organizational tax filing, April 24, 2013. Accessed June 11, 2014.
- John Dunbar, ‘Nonpartisan’ youth movement has deep GOP roots, The Center for Public Integrity, November 1, 2011, updated May 14, 2012.
- Generation Opportunity, December’s Millennial Jobs Report: Youth Unemployment at 11.5 Percent, press release, January 4, 2013.
- Generation Opportunity, Our Team, organizational website, accessed June 11, 2014.
- Theodore Schliefer, "First on CNN: Koch operative leaves group amid tumult," CNN, September 1, 2015.
- Generation Opportunity, Millennial Jobs Report: Youth Unemployment Reaches 13.1 Percent as U.S. Economy Shrinks, press release, February 1, 2013.
- Brian Hughes, THE 3-MINUTE INTERVIEW: David Pasch, Washington Examiner, December 23, 2012.
- Generation Opportunity, As Inauguration Approaches, Young Adults Ask President Obama to Remember the Next Generation, press release, January 18, 2013.
- Generation Opportunity, 2010 IRS form 990, organizational tax filing, April 23, 2012. Accessed June 11, 2014.