November 2, 2010
Turncoat Organizations Abandoning the BaseBy Janet Levy
A number of well-established, single-focus national organizations with large constituencies made headlines recently after taking positions that compromised their founding principles. In effect, they abandoned their missions and original bases of support for political and/or financial gains. The resulting censure and shifting of allegiances by disillusioned members birthed new organizations to fill the void, because it's apparent that these otherwise venerable groups now believe that their own self-interest trumps that of their members.
A case in point occurred this month, when many military veterans were shocked to see the Veterans of Foreign Wars Political Action Committee (VFW PAC) endorse incumbents who were not generally supportive of the military instead of pro-military challengers, several of whom had actually served in the armed forces. Particularly galling to VFW members was that the VFW PAC exists solely to collect and spend money supporting candidates who best represent VFW interests.
In Florida, the organization endorsed reelection of U.S. Congressman Ron Klein, who seeks repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. That policy is opposed by the majority of military officers as well as by 48% of likely voters, according to a recent poll by The Polling Company/WomanTrend for the Center for Military Readiness and the Military Culture Coalition. The PAC passed over Klein's rival candidate, Allen West, a highly decorated lieutenant colonel who served in Iraq. Most surprisingly, the VFW PAC endorsed Barbara Boxer, who has taken decidedly anti-military stances and has aligned herself with anti-military groups. California's U.S. senator voted to cut and run in Iraq and Afghanistan, spoke at a fundraiser hosted by longstanding military antagonist Jane Fonda, sanctioned an action by the radical leftist anti-military group Code Pink, voted against condemning a disparaging MoveOn.Org ad against U.S. Army General David Petraeus, and dressed down a military officer who called her "ma'am" instead of "senator." Code Pink has viciously harassed wounded soldiers and their families outside of Walter Reed Naval Hospital; referred to U.S. troops as terrorists while praising our enemies as freedom-fighters; and actively supports Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda. Further, in 2004, Boxer provided Code Pink a letter requesting diplomatic courtesy as the group traveled from Jordan to Iraq.
Since the VFW PAC disregarded the wishes of members ostensibly to ingratiate itself with those in power and refused to rescind the unpopular endorsements, the VFW commander-in-chief dissolved the PAC and withdrew support from the questionable candidates.
In the health care arena, both the AARP and the American Medical Association (AMA) ignored the desires of its members for the political clout and financial benefits of supporting ObamaCare. These organizations viewed the decline of membership as minor liabilities compared to the potential advantages from support of Obama's health plan.
Founded as a nonprofit advocate for retirees on issues affecting older Americans, AARP counts 40 million members. It is ten times the size of the National Rifle Association and not far behind the 68-million-member Catholic Church. Two-thirds of its $800-million annual budget comes from insurance sales, and another $240 million from membership dues, giving it a budget five times the size of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It is arguably the most powerful lobbying group for seniors and Baby Boomers.
But AARP's endorsement of ObamaCare was clearly made at the expense of its members' best interests. Obama's health insurance program targets seniors for $313 billion in Medicare cuts over the next ten years. That gives AARP a profitable opportunity to sell Medigap insurance. With fewer seniors on Medicare Advantage, demand for Medicare fee-for-service insurance will expand, as will royalties to AARP, which already command 30% of the Medigap insurance market. The organization's call for $500 billion in Medicare cuts was made because it recognized that it would lose money if it didn't stop the Medicare Advantage program. Further, ObamaCare not only cuts Medicare, but it also limits patient-doctor choice and rations health care. Yet AARP remains a supporter, putting its commercial interests over the needs of its membership.
Also guilty of backroom deals on ObamaCare is the AMA, the alleged voice on acceptable medical treatment, which represents approximately 10% of the nation's doctors. The AMA's major concern was protecting its monopoly on Current Procedural Terminology (CPT), a copyrighted medical coding system that provides the AMA with $118 million, 70% of their annual revenue. All doctors must use this licensed coding system to bill Medicare and insurance companies. The AMA has a tenuous hold on this monopoly because of its possible replacement by the public-domain ICD 10 coding system, which combines procedural and diagnostic codes and is endorsed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The AMA, whose leadership is committed to the centralization and central planning of medical care, has fought to maintain the CPT standard and knew that it couldn't afford to alienate the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The AMA's support of ObamaCare enabled the organization to maintain its coding system, at least for the short term, and to gain political clout and greater control over doctors.
Meanwhile, recent actions by the National Rifle Association fuel accusations that it has become less of an advocate for Second Amendment rights and more like another corrupt Washington establishment lobbying group primarily concerned with political access and clout. In addition to endorsing fourteen of anti-gun Nancy Pelosi's twenty "endangered Democrats," the NRA considered supporting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who received an "F" rating from Gun Owners of America. Pressure from NRA members squelched a Reid endorsement but failed to bring about endorsement of Reid's opposition, 100%-pro-gun-rated Sharron Angle. Although Reid has voted pro-gun on occasion, he poses a serious threat to gun owners with his key role in the confirmation of radical anti-gun justices and political officeholders such as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, a gun ban supporter; Legal Advisor of the Department of State Harold Koh, a global gun-control advocate; and Cass Sunstein, the Obama administration's head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, who has endorsed banning hunting.
Other Second Amendment groups and advocates claim that the NRA does not honestly and accurately grade politicians for their real positions on the Second Amendment and favors incumbents over stauncher gun-rights supporters. They contend that the NRA had to be pressured to oppose the nomination of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and refused to oppose the appointment of anti-gun Holder. Also, pro-gun groups accuse the NRA of initially sitting out the landmark 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision, District of Columbia vs. Heller, that affirmed the right of individuals to possess a firearm within the home for private use.
These groups also say the NRA undermined legislation to permit the carrying of loaded guns in national parks. E-mails between the NRA and congressional aides obtained by the conservative blog RedState support this contention and show that the NRA wanted to exclude rifles and other long firearms as well. Further disconcerting to gun rights advocates was the NRA's backroom deal with U.S. Senators Pelosi, Reid, and Chuck Schumer for NRA support of the DISCLOSE Act in exchange for a special exemption for the NRA from the provisions of the proposed act. The Disclose Act, created to circumvent a Supreme Court decision underscoring corporate rights to freedom of speech, would impose new election rules on corporations.
Should we be surprised at these betrayals? We've seen it before. The National Organization for Women fails to support women in the military and doesn't speak out against the oppression of Muslim women. The National Right to Life organization rejects a pro-life challenger and instead endorses a pro-abortion candidate who owns an embryonic stem cell company. Countless labor unions compromise the political clout of their members by donating primarily to Leftist causes and campaigning to end secret ballots. In the end, these organizations look out for their best interests even when it harms their own members and conflicts with their stated missions.
Now, veterans look on in disbelief, seniors see their needs getting short shrift, doctors sense their loss of autonomy and control over how they practice medicine, and gun owners watch their Second Amendment rights being compromised. The primary organizations that they have turned to for support and representation have abandoned them for greater political capital and monetary gains. It's time for other organizations to take hold of these issues and for the betrayed constituencies to recognize that other groups may be in a far better position to meet their needs.