Koch-sponsored “GenOpp” wants you to know about Udall’s “War on Youth”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

You remember Creepy Uncle Sam, who symbolized all that was unknown and scary about the Affordable Care Act. Sam had a fun few weeks to try to frighten consumers out of signing up on the health exchanges. Uncle Sam was everywhere  – on your favorite cable news shows  and web pages. Then, as suddenly as he had popped in, he disappeared, after the ACA signup deadline was over.

Generation Opportunity, or GenOpp, the organization which sponsored the Uncle Sam ads, is still going strong, and working harder than ever to lure young people away from the Democratic fold. GenOpp's media arm is called FreetheFuture, and it is mostly funded by the Koch brothers, via GenOpp, through the Freedom Partners LLC, which has funneled five million dollars into it during 2013, according to an expose by Viveca Novak on OpenSecrets.org.












Free the Future, or FTF in textspeak, is a smart, funny, visually appealing, socially media savvy compilation of short articles, cute graphics and cartoons, Facebook-style web memes, all of which carry a conservative talking point: (Obamacare is not to be trusted. Obama is an overreaching tyrant, government is bad)

FTF mixes in real issues: student loan debt, gas prices, unemployment, NSA spying –  in a Facebook, Google +,  and Instagram-friendly montage designed to appeal to people with teeny little smartphone screens , miniscule attention spans, and calluses on their texting fingers. Although I searched, I could find nothing on these pages with other issues of concern to the 18-34 crowd:  contraception, the environment, climate change, equality in marriage, gun violence, racism and police profiling, raising the minimum wage. Only ads, posters and graphics which promote cynicism and powerlessness are included.

So far, according to Novak's reporting, GenOpp has been able to avoid real-time transparency about its donors by being just an "issue committee". However, now, with political ads specifically targeting candidates in elections, as with Senator Udall and Senator Landrieu, GenOpp has stepped over that line. This is what IRS oversight was designed to prevent – blatant electioneering by anonymous donors with unlimited money. And it's happening, right now, on your favorite cable stations and web pages.

Here is an FTF ad you've probably seen in the last few weeks. Titled "Spending Spree," it shows a young woman pushing a Congressman, presumably Mark Udall, around a grocery store. Like a bratty child, he wants everything he's not supposed to have. It speaks to the real problems young people have: unemployment, falling wages, rising prices, and insecurity about the economy, and blames a Democrat – Senator Mark Udall.

Narrator: Washington politicians, like Mark Udall, have a spending problem. They're wasting money they don't have…

."I told you we can't afford that," complains the young shopper pushing the cart.

Narrator: and sticking our generation with the bill. The bill at the checkstand: $400,000.

The "Udall" actor: "Ahh…she's got it."

"Pay it yourself," sneers the miffed millenial.

End Narration: Tell Mark Udall – that's our money. Stop wasting it.

These ads are very smart. As Marshall Mcluhan said so long ago, the medium is the message, and the message is: You're young, you're cool, you're tech-savvy, and the old people just don't get you and are greedily sucking up your future. All politicians are crooked, and all government is bad. The best way to get revenge is to not vote. Cynical apathy is the way to go.

I'd like to think that our young people are smarter, and that slick marketing, dazzling graphics, and flashy social media memes won't be enough to bend the vote the way the Koch brothers would like.



About kwtree

Retired teacher, aspiring writer, doting grandma. Nosy, curious, persistent.

20 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Andrew Carnegie says:


    Another Nice Ad.

    I think it is effective.

    There is a reason Udall is behind in the most recent polling by NPR 46-43 and he has gone from being the 11th most vulnerable to 9th most vulnerable Senator in the National Journal rankings.  Given Obama's recent tanking in popularity, from 44% approval to 41.5% approval in the RCP averages that may be the difference in winning and losing.  Here is the chart:


    • Progressicat says:

      Hey, AC.  Maybe you can help me out.  In the only NPR poll I can find that seems to say what you are, the 46-43 preference number shown is for all survey respondents (a dozen states) not for Colorado in particular.  Could you point me to the state by state breakdown since I don't seem to be able to find where it says Gardner over Udall 46-43, only repub over dem candidate 46-43 in these states generally?


      • mamajama55 says:


        You are correct – the sample was 1000 respondents, spread over 12 battleground states. I analyzed the demographics in the original NPR poll. I found that a) the sample was older, more white, and more Republican than Coloradans, and b) that this was basically a "generic Republican vs. generic Democrat", rather than a specific Gardner vs. Udall poll.

        You can see this in the way it was worded.
        An analysis of the Demographics section of the NPR poll reveals that they did survey cell phone users, and likely voters, but the sample was skewed to be older than 40, make more than $50,000 a year, and more conservative/ Republican leaning than most Americans or Coloradans are.
        So the sample doesn't really prove that this latest Koch-bought "War on Youth" meme is gaining any traction among 18-34 year olds. 18-34 year olds are still really liberal, according to the RCP poll averages,  and tend to support Udall,  not least because of his stance on NSA spying.

        Of the 1000 voters NPR polled, 681 were cell phone users for more than half of their personal calls. However, these were not young millenials.

        Under-40s were only 35% of those polled – 40 and up were 65%. And most (45%) were 2012 Romney voters, or self-identified as Republicans rather than Democrats, 46-39%. (Question D1) So the poll sample was both older and more conservative than is America, or Colorado, generally, in spite of the heavy cell phone bias.

        46% of that middle aged cell phone-using likely voter group- would vote for the Republican candidate over the Democratic candidate. This isn’t too surprising, as 45% of them voted for Romney in 2012. (Question D3)
        More from in the weeds, this time from the April 2014 Quinnipiac poll- question 10 on Senator preference, after Gardner switched with Buck. 99% of those 18-49 would vote for Udall as opposed to 73% of that same age group voting for Gardner.

        Anyway,  the ad didn’t prove that there is a “War on Youth”, and the poll doesn’t prove that 18-34 year olds will vote for Gardner. This poll asked older, wealthier, more Republican cell-phone users what they thought, and got the answers one would expect.


    • BlueCat says:

      Nate Silver still has Udall as the 60/40 fave as of earlier this month. He has chances of  an R Senate take over slightly better than 50/50 but not enough to say it's beyond toss up.

  2. ElliotFladen says:

    Test for MJ at her request

  3. DaninDen says:

     Reminds me of Hugh G.Debt( say it fast!) a fictional politician in TV AD;  a Pete Peterson 20 million dollar ad campaign roll out POST 2010 elections. Peterson, ex CFR prez, hedge fund founder of Blackstone. Determined to propagandize US electorate on economics. (hardest subject to educate & communicate, IMO)  

     & Thx for citing open secrets.org, my very first post parroted a Truthout story that Colorado’s own (Cory Gee)  was summoned to the latest Koch billionaire summit. I say summoned because if you are not a billionaire, one does not wake up one day and say” I’ll go do the peoples businesses at a $500 a night California resort “  

    • mamajama55 says:

      Open Secrets does great work. I decided to write the diary because that damn ad kept popping up in every medium I saw. I wondered who was behind it, and found out. 

      The factual basis of the ad is suspect, of course – maybe every millenial's share of the national debt is up there, but it's hard to see how Mark Udall is to blame. Obama has done the best job of any President in recent history of cutting the deficit, and Udall has voted with Obama most of the time.

      Perusing this graph, it's evident that Bush's two unpaid-for wars did more to get us into a deficit, and Obama has been digging us out.


  4. Tom says:

    So, the idea is to paint Udall as the face of the entrenched political elite, sucking the country dry and leaving nothing for the next generation? Even if the kids buy that, they're going to naturally turn to Cory Gardner!? 

    As a member of the target demographic, I'm all for snarky, cynical apathy. When I do get fired up about an issue, my first instinct for an electoral solution isn't to look to a sitting congressman who's desperately clawing his way up the ladder. 

    Maybe this is just a truly genius attempt to drive down voter turnout by trying to show that candidates are clueless a-holes and that voting is for suckers. Heck, that even makes things kosher as an issue ad.

    • mamajama55 says:

      I think it is kind of a genius ad, even if it is factually sewer scrapings. It appeals to a universal experience – who has not struggled to shop for groceries, while wheeling a cranky kid around the store in the cart? Or, who has not been irritated and judgmental of the parents with the cranky kids, whether they pacified the kids or yelled at them?

      My own takeaway is that it is designed to drive down the vote from young people. I'll ask some of my own kids, former students, nephews and nieces, and friends in that age group, see what their answers are to:

      Does this persuade you that there is a "War on Youth"?

      Does it persuade you that Mark Udall is waging this "war"?

      Does it make you want to not vote?

      I'll publish answers in the comments here.

      • Urban Snowshoer says:

        I was never able to identify with Ron Paul but I’ll give him credit where it is due: he was able to attract a certain number of younger voters. I don’t see Gardner being able to attract younger voters in any meaningful capacity.

      • DaninDen says:

        Likely a replay of Buck –Bennett ,women voting 10% more than men for a Dem Candidate ( They regained job income faster than men did post recession and don’t feel the gravitational pull of other party “pie in the sky” economic schemes). Next will be Gardner’s turn to back pedal extreme views, perhaps a gaff in explaining how he as a man knows anatomy decisions best for a majority of voters, that is, women.

  5. ct says:

    Kelly Maher's odd little sidekickl has been pushing this all week on the twitters. Part of the 'argument' is that Mark Udall took the responsible course and supported the US paying for obligations it already incurred due to spending bills already passed by Congress. IOW, Colorado cons are now encouranging the younger generation to spend, spend, spend but not pay it back, in essesnce.  

  6. mamajama55 says:

    Another update on Gen Opp spending in Colorado: PR online news says that Genopp is planning to spend 900,000 on Colorado media this election cycle.

    So the "shopping spree" ad is going to get old. Who knows what will be next?


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