*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
There is a concept, “truth in advertising,” that fundamentally opposes any organization’s deliberate use of misleading or deceptive statements when promoting a brand. In fact, there are laws founded on the concept but they apply to organizations that sell or deliver products using false advertising or misleading and deceptive statements. Unfortunately, there are no laws preventing political advocacy groups from using misleading and deceptive statements when promoting their brand.
Most Americans may see the deception in conservative groups’ names like Americans for Prosperity. The Koch brothers’ outfit is not remotely interested in prosperity for all Americans, but to the uninformed it might appear the organization is working tirelessly for the betterment, and wealth, of all Americans when nothing could possibly be farther from the truth. It is the same with an advocacy organization with the term “retired person” or “elderly” or “senior citizen” in its name; one expects it would hew closely to the needs of retired Americans.
In the case of the AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired Persons, the organization’s claim of advocacy for “retired persons” is not only a misleading and deceptive statement, it violates any iteration or interpretation of the term “truth in advertising.” Why? Because AARP is a proud sponsor of another organization uniquely dedicated to decimating America’s retired persons’ quality of life in their old age and retirement.
It was very recently revealed that AARP is a supporting member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch brothers’ organization dedicated to, among many other things, destroying Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. It is also noteworthy that another Koch privatization-advocacy group and a sister organization of ALEC, the State Policy Network (SPN), is extremely active in abolishing pensions for public workers including police officers, school teachers, prison guards, city workers and firefighters. Suffice it to say that like their funding machine the Koch brothers, neither ALEC nor SPN will rest until Social Security and public retirement accounts are abolished and the concept of financial security in old age are a distant memory. It is why the revelation that AARP is a paying member of ALEC is beyond abominable and brands the phony retiree advocates as stunning hypocrites. Any one of the 37-plus million paying AARP members should be up in arms and outraged beyond comprehension.
Of course, AARP is not going to confess to its hypocrisy in supporting ALEC while claiming to lobby and advocate for seniors, Social Security, Medicare, and lower prescription drug costs. Instead, the retiree-supported non-profit is taking a page out of lying Republicans’ book and claimed it supports ALEC to get closer to ALEC legislators and attempt to determine how they are helping seniors. After the not-unexpected outcry, AARP released a statement that said in part:
“AARP is committed to serving a diverse membership and fulfilling our responsibility to engage with groups and individuals with different perspectives on issues important to the 50+ and their families. In 2016, AARP paid a fee to ALEC, which gave us an opportunity to engage with state legislators and advance our members’ priorities from a position of strength at ALEC’s annual meeting.”
Seriously, of all the bovine excrement reasons for being a paying member of a Koch brother organization with the openly-stated intent of doing away with Social Security, Medicare, public employee pensions and anything remotely related to serving the needs of the “50+ and their families” demographic; “engaging with state legislators” has got to be a lie that would give Donald Trump pause. As a registered lobby, AARP enjoys unique access to, and opportunities to engage, with state and federal legislators; and the 37-plus million paying members gives AARP a position of strength that paying to support ALEC is never going to increase.
There were no small number of disgusted groups weighing in on the hypocrisy of a so-called retiree advocacy group helping the Koch brothers fund an organization dedicated to helping Republicans eviscerate Social Security, Medicare and public retirement accounts, food stamps and housing assistance the elderly depend on. One statement, though, best summed up why AARP funding ALEC is as “deeply disturbing” as any decent human being could possible imagine if they care about the elderly or worse, are elderly and pay dues to belong to AARP.
The president and CEO of the Center for Global Policy Solutions (CGPS), Dr. Maya Rockeymoore wrote:
“I am deeply disturbed to learn that AARP is a financial backer of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). AARP should be more sensitive to its members (and their families) who are vulnerable to ALEC-supported legislative efforts that encourage voter suppression, gun violence, high-cost prescription drugs, and other policies that are especially harmful to seniors, low and middle income families, and communities of color. I urge AARP to stand on the side of democracy, public safety, and affordable health and financial service options by renouncing its ALEC membership. I further call on AARP to affirm its commitment to supporting an inclusive nation that maximizes public participation in U.S. civic life, equal protection under the law, and the public welfare through policies and practices that support health, safety, and economic security for all.”
Over the course of the past few years many corporate giants have withdrawn support, and their paid membership, for the Koch brothers by way of the American Legislative Exchange Council. Interestingly, very few of the major corporations, if any, were ALEC supporters and members in opposition to their own self-interests. Those corporate giants bailed out of ALEC over common decency and ALEC’s legislation that worked admirably in opposition to the best interests of all the American people.
Look, if Google, Microsoft, Walmart, Coca-Cola, Amazon, General Motors and Hewlett-Packard, among many, many others cut ties and abandoned ALEC and the Koch brothers, there is no reason why AARP should not renounce its membership immediately and harshly condemn the Koch brothers’ organization as anti-elderly unless the senior advocacy group is even more deceptive and misleading than the typically benign-sounding ALEC legislation created to rob pensions and destroy Social Security.