AARP Is Officially Nonpartisan but Group Officials’ Money Mostly Goes to Dems

By Mark Tapscott
Mark Tapscott
Mark Tapscott
Congressional Correspondent
Mark Tapscott is an award-winning investigative editor and reporter who covers Congress, national politics, and policy for The Epoch Times. Mark was admitted to the National Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Hall of Fame in 2006 and he was named Journalist of the Year by CPAC in 2008. He was a consulting editor on the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series “Other Than Honorable” in 2014.
July 23, 2019Updated: July 24, 2019

Seventeen of the Democratic presidential primary contenders appeared in Iowa last week for candidate forums hosted by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), with most of them backing a Medicare for All system that would end private health care insurance, or a public option that would compete with it.

While the organization doesn’t endorse candidates for the White House or Congress, Democrats and liberal advocacy groups are far and away the choice of more than 330 individuals who listed “AARP” in the title of their employer, according to The Epoch Times’ analysis of Federal Election Commission data for the 2016 and 2018 election cycles.

The individuals made a total of 3,210 contributions to federal candidates, party and political action committees (PACs), and advocacy groups.

Seven of the AARP employees made 61 contributions, which averaged $277 each and were worth a total of $16,871, to Republican candidates, including President Donald Trump and one conservative advocacy group.

By contrast, the more than 320 remaining AARP employees made 3,149 discrete contributions worth a total of $183,868 to Democratic candidates, party and ideological advocacy committees, and PACs.

In other words, a mere 1.9 percent of the contributions went to Republicans, with the remaining 98.1 percent going to Democrats and allied groups.

By far, the favorite recipient of contributions from AARP members was Act Blue, the liberal Democratic PAC. Act Blue received nearly 2,400 contributions, worth $18 each on average, for a total of $42,889.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign received only 162 individual contributions from AARP members, but they averaged $270, for a total of $43,636.

While the AARP PAC’s contributions reflect the partisan preferences of the organization’s employees, its membership is likely much more balanced.

An Associated Press survey in 2018 found that 49 percent of voters 65 years of age or older voted Republican, compared with 48 percent for Democrats. Among voters between the ages of 50 and 64, 49 percent voted for Democrats, while 46 percent backed Republicans.

Four members of AARP’s 12-member board of directors contributed to political candidates during the period examined by The Epoch Times. Board members aren’t AARP employees.

Board member Robert Blancato was most active, making 39 contributions averaging $429. Blancato gave four contributions totaling $1,750 to Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), while his other contributions, a total of $16,750, all went to Democrats.

Board member Annette Franqui gave $500 to Florida Democratic congressional contender Matthew Hagman, who lost in the primary to Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.).

Board member Beth Ellard gave $100 to Act Blue in 2018; board member Lloyd Johnson gave $450 to Clinton and $100 to Act Blue.

At the executive level of AARP, former Senior Executive Vice President Joyce Rogers contributed $1,000 to Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and $500 to Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), plus $11,750 to Clinton and other Democrats.

Another vice president, Daphne Kwok, gave $12,207 to Clinton and other Democrats.

Other AARP officials giving in 2016 and 2018 to Democrats included Martin Burns, the group’s manager of political intelligence. Burns gave $1,250 to Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-N.Y.), plus $350 to Act Blue.

Clinton received another $750 from AARP Senior Strategic Policy Adviser Andrea Brassard, who also gave $492 to Act Blue, while Deborah Chalfie, an AARP senior legislative representative, made multiple gifts to Democratic candidates, totaling $4,135.

The AARP said in a statement to The Epoch Times on July 22 that the group “is completely nonpartisan and does not make any financial contributions to any political candidates, office holders or parties, nor does the organization endorse any political candidates, office holders or parties.”

The statement continued: “AARP does not preclude its employees, including board members, from exercising their personal right to participate in the political process.

“As such, AARP employees are permitted to make lawful contributions, on a personal basis, to political candidates, if they so wish.

“However, they are prohibited from engaging in any personal political activity using AARP resources of any type, or to engage in any personal political activity during work hours.”

Conspicuously absent from among the AARP political contributors was Jo Ann Jenkins, the chief executive officer. Her predecessor as CEO, Addison Barry Rand, gave $4,300 to Obama for America and $2,000 to the Obama Victory Fund in 2008.

Rand actively backed the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Barack Obama’s controversial health care legislation, also known as Obamacare. The organization is now part of a coalition of liberal advocacy groups opposing a federal suit filed by 20 states asking the federal courts to find Obamacare unconstitutional.

“AARP strongly opposes any attempts to take away the ACA’s protection for people with preexisting health conditions or to bring back an unfair age tax on older adults,” Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer, said in a 2018 statement.

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Editor’s Note: This story includes significantly more data obtained by The Epoch Times from the FEC than a previous version that was published July 23.