Generation Opportunity

Generation Opportunity

Background

Generation Opportunity was an Arlington, Virginia-based non-profit whose stated aims were to “advance policy change, hold policymakers accountable, fight for opportunity, and defend the freedoms of young Americans.” Officially named YEM Trust and founded in 2010 as a sister organisation to Americans for Prosperity, with which it shared offices, the group sought to create a youth wing of the Koch brothers' climate science denying political network, opposing what it considered “over-regulation and out-of-control spending.” [1], [2]

Generation Opportunity appears to have dissolved on July 3, 2018, with its Twitter account directing supporters to follow Americans for Prosperity instead. The group's website, GenerationOpportunity.org, now redirects to the AFP website. The group originally gained millions of fans on Facebook by calling itself Being American, before later renaming, a Center for Public Integrity report revealed. The activities of Generation Opportunity are effectively a project under AFP, without separate reporting of non-profit donors or expense. [16][5] 

Freedom Partners, a funding body described by Politico as the “Koch brothers' secret bank” and also based in Arlington, Virginia, donated $5 million to Generation Opportunity in 2011-2012. According to Generation Opportunity's 990 forms, the group's “principal officer” and trustee was Kelly Bulloch, a board member at Freedom Partners and an employee at Koch Industries since 1987. Bulloch has held numerous roles at Koch-owned businesses, including as as Koch Industries treasurer and CFO of Invista, a textiles company acquired by the Kochs in 2004. As of May 2019, some of Freedom Partners' key operations were officially rebranded as “Stand Together” and others were subsumed by AFP. [3][2], [4]

A report by the Center for Public Integrity detailed Generation Opportunity's links to the Republican Party and various US right-wing groups. It found that its president in 2011, Paul Conway, previously worked for the free-market Heritage Foundation and was chief of staff for former George W Bush Labor Secretary Elaine Chao. Generation Opportunity's former spokesperson, Matthew Faraci, also worked for Chao. Chao is married to Koch-funded Republican Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. [5]

Generation Opportunity contracted the public opinion research company founded by Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway to carry out polling for the group. Conway's “the polling company, inc./WomanTrend” has a history of working with the PR firm CRC Strategies, which has represented numerous right-wing groups, including the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Tax Reform. [6]

Generation Opportunity put significant resources into opposing President Obama's Affordable Care Act, launching an “Opt Out of Obamacare” campaign in September 2013 to persuade college students not to sign up to the health insurance scheme. The campaign involved a tour of 20 college campuses and the release of a controversial video featuring a “Creepy Uncle Sam” character performing gynecological and prostate exams on patients on the scheme. The video ordered viewers not to “let the government play doctor.” [7], [8]

The group also lobbied on issues related to technology and privacy, with its president Evan Feinberg saying they intended to “make young people’s lives better by ensuring freedom in the technology they use.” The group opposed the concept of “net neutrality.” [9], [10]

Feinberg, Generation Opportunity's president between 2013 and 2015 and a former aide to the Koch-backed Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, left the organization around the same time as over half of the staff.  According to a CNN report, sources said it was “struggling to lift off the ground and dogged by group-culture problems.”

Feinberg went on to become executive director of the Stand Together Foundation, a Koch-funded network focused on promoting libertarian views in education, also briefly known as the Seminar Network before it was rebranded as Stand Together in May 2019. [11], [12], [13]

Generation Opportunity focused much of its spending on social, rather than traditional, media, with a 2013 Washington Examiner article reporting that it had devoted $1.4 million of its $4 million annual budget to Facebook ads. [9]

During the 2014 Senate elections, Generation Opportunity spent nearly $2.3 million on television ads attacking Democratic Senators in North Carolina, Colorado and Louisiana for their “tax and spend” policies. [14]

As of December 2017, Carrie Sheffield, a founder of Bold.TV, a “digital news network committed to bipartisan dialogue & innovation for people, business & communities,” was executive director of Generation Opportunity. [15]

Generation Opportunity Institute and Its Ties to the PR Effort Called “Fueling US Forward”

While Generation Opportunity operates as a 501(c)(4) organization, it appears to have also run a non-profit 501(c)(3) arm entitled the “Generation Opportunity Institute.”

The 2016/2017 990 forms for Generation Opportunity Institute (EIN 46-2346050) operated under the name “Fueling U.S. Forward Institute” and listed Charles Drevna as the group's president. According to that tax form, Drevna received $648,969 in that year, plus another $23,978 in other compensation. 

It also noted that Drevna, as president, was paid via YEM Trust — the operating name of Generation Opportunity's 501(c)(4) outfit:

Fueling US Forward is a now-defunct 501(c)(6) pro-fossil-fuel lobbying organization whose activities have been documented by DeSmog in the past.

Stance on Climate Change

Generation Opportunity does not appear to have any official statements on climate change.

Funding

The following is based on information collected from publicly available 990 tax forms.

View the attached spreadsheet for details on Generation Opportunity funding by year (.xlsx).

Recipient & Donor 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 Grand Total
Generation Opportunity $2,000,000 $7,199,211 $6,000,000 $14,225,000 $6,098,507 $4,625,000 $75,000 $40,222,718
Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce $5,040,000 $6,000,000 $14,225,000 $5,100,000 $4,600,000 $75,000 $35,040,000
TC4 Trust $2,000,000 $2,130,000 $4,130,000
Themis Trust $998,507 $998,507
Center to Protect Patient Rights $29,211 $29,211
Einhorn Family Foundation $25,000 $25,000
Generation Opportunity Institute $25,000 $150,000 $250,000 $259,040 $684,040
Generation Opportunity $259,040 $259,040
Freedom Partners Institute $200,000 $200,000
Bradley Impact Fund $25,000 $50,000 $50,000 $125,000
DonorsTrust $100,000 $100,000
Grand Total $2,000,000 $7,199,211 $6,000,000 $14,250,000 $6,248,507 $4,875,000 $334,040 $40,906,758

* According to its final 2014/2015 990 tax return, Themis Trust (EIN 27-2005005) dissolved and gave $998,507 in assets over to YEM Trust (Generation Opportunity) in that year.

Generation Opportunity 990 Forms

Generation Opportunity Institute 990 Forms

Key People

Board of Directors

The following is based on publicly available 990 forms filed by YEM Trust doing business as Generation Opportunity:

Name 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 Description
Carrie Sheffield Y Executive Director [15]
Kelly Bulloch Y Y Y Trustee
Logan Moore Y Y Y
James Clark Y Y President
David Barnes Y Policy Director
Ja'Ron Smith Y Director of External Affairs
Josh Fisher Y Trustee
Shawn Pattison Y Vice President of Grassroots
Julie Germany Y Y
Ashley Stow Y General Counsel
Terrence Linderman Y Y Y Y Y Trustee. [2]
Evan Feinberg Y Y Y President [9]
George Slater Y Y Y Executive Vice President [2]
Bryan Lyle Y VP of Digital
Daniel Turner Y
Paul Conway Y Y Y President. [5]
Amber Roseboom Y Y Executive Vice President
Matthew Faraci Y Y Senior VP for Communications and former spokesperson [5]

Staff

Name 2013 2014 2015
Evan Feinberg Y Y Y
David Pasch Y Y Y
Emily Lyons Y Y Y
Greg Markle Y Y Y
Luke Kenworthy Y Y Y
Nick Pappas Y Y Y
Patrice J. Lee Y Y Y
Will Cousins Y Y Y
Aaron Houlihan Y Y
Alex Johnson Y Y
Brian Lyle Y Y
Charity Corkey Y Y
Christopher Venning Y Y
Jeff Scully Y Y
Julie Germany Y Y
Logan Moore Y Y
Mike Hopper Y Y
Nicholas Bailey Y Y
Sarah Belknap Y Y
Wesley Coopersmith Y Y
William Patrick Varley III Y Y
Alex Copeland Y
Alex Goodman Y
Alex Vargo Y
Brandon Gahman Y
Charlie Heimerdinger Y
Corie Whalen Stephens Y
Courtney Green Y
Jackie Ellis Y
Joe Tate Y
John Trent Y
Jonathan Callaway Y
Jonathan Lockwood Y
Joseph Doiron Y
Katie O'Neil Y
Kevin Gardner Y
Kristie Eshelman Y
Laura Howd Y
Max Koenig Y
Megan Rossbach Y
Meghan Raffa Y
Melanie Pfeiffenberger Y
Nicole Spala Y
Rachael Jensen Y
Rebecca Coffman Y
Roy Harmon Y
Ryan Flood Y
Seth Guidry Y
Sharon Koss Y
Vinny Foster Y
Zuri Davis Y
Corie Whalen Y Y
Mary Mueller Y Y
Nathan Leamer Y Y
Peter Buckingham Y Y
Stephanie Terek Y Y
Zachary Henry Y Y
Ariel Judah Y
Daisy Letendre Y
Daniel Turner Y
Katie Shupe Y
Lily Belt Y
Peter Anthony Tariche Y
Stephanie Schwartz Y
Brandon Fleig Y
Brent Perrin Y
Bryan Slater Y
Hannah Bennett Y
James Wesolek Y
Jeremy Siblerud Y
Katie Bell Y
Kurt Brown Y
Luke Mahoney Y
Nikki West Y
Terence Grado Y
Tyler Spires Y

Other People

Actions

July 3, 2018

Generation Opportunity apparently dissolved, with its Twitter account directing supporters to follow its sister organization Americans for Prosperity instead. [16]

September 1, 2015

CNN reported that Evan Feinberg, Generation Opportunity's president between 2013 and 2015 and a former aide to the Koch-backed Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, had left the organization around the same time as over half of the staff.  Sources said the group was “struggling to lift off the ground and dogged by group-culture problems.” [12]

September 2013

Generation Opportunity launched an “Opt Out of Obamacare” campaign to persuade college students not to sign up to the health insurance scheme. The campaign involved a tour of 20 college campuses and the release of a controversial video featuring a “Creepy Uncle Sam” character performing gynecological and prostate exams on patients on the scheme. [7], [8]

2011-2012

Generation Opportunity received $5 million from Freedom Partners, a funding body described by Politico as the “Koch brothers' secret bank” and also based in Arlington, Virginia. [3]

Related Organizations

Contact & Address

Generation Opportunity was formerly based in the same offices as fellow Koch-backed political advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity: [2]

Room 220
1320 N Courthouse Road
STE 220
Arlington
Virginia
22201

Social Media

Resources

  1. About us,” Generation Opportunity. Archived February 19, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/DhDJT

  2. Generation Opportunity 990 form,” GuideStar. Archived June 18, 2019. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  3. Mike Allen, Jim Vandehei. “The Koch brothers' secret bank,” Politico, September 11, 2013. Archived June 18, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttp://archive.fo/sww5v

  4. About,” Freedom Partners. Archived June 18, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/0rYb4

  5. John Dunbar. “‘Nonpartisan’ youth movement has deep GOP roots,” Center for Public Integrity, November 1, 2011. Archived June 18, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttp://archive.fo/d3KJq

  6. Jim Tankersley. “Will Recent College Grads' Struggles Hurt Obama?The Atlantic, July 11, 2011. Archived June 18, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttp://archive.fo/UnFjS

  7. Chris Moody. “Creepy Obamacare ad hits college campuses and your nightmares,” Yahoo News, September 19, 2013. Archived June 18, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/oj7zD

  8. Kate Pickert. “Spread Your Legs for Uncle Sam,” Time, September 19, 2013. Archived June 18, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/JblNv

  9. Tim Mak. “Generation Opportunity to lobby Hill on behalf of Millennials,” Washington Examiner, October 25, 2013. Archived June 18, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/6xlrE

  10. Joy Lawson. “Millennials Won’t Fall for the Koch’s ‘Generation Opportunity’,” HuffPost, August 21, 2016. Archived June 18, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/SOu1U

  11. Nicholas Confessore. “Koch Brothers Plan More Political Involvement for Their Conservative Network,” New York Times, April 30, 2013. Archived June 18, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/bApeo

  12. Theodore Schleifer. “First on CNN: Koch operative leaves group amid tumult,” CNN, September 1, 2015. Archived June 18, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/lIigY

  13. James Hohmann. “The Daily 202: The Koch network is reorganizing under a new name and with new priorities,” Washington Post, May 20, 2019. Archived June 18, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/MwLuE

  14. Mary Bottari. “Koch-Tied Youth Group Weighs In on Senate Races,” PR Watch, July 3, 2014. Archived June 18, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/Gphd7

  15. Carrie Sheffield. “Time to reform the tax code to help millennials and women in business,” The Hill, December 5, 2017. Archived June 18, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/TE9iM

  16. We are moving our fight for freedom to Americans for Prosperity. Come hang out with us there: http://bit.ly/2tZ2pjn,” Tweet by @GenOpp, July 3, 2018. Archived .png on file at DeSmog.

Other Resources