Originally known as Americans United to Protect Social Security, Americans United For Change (AUFC) was established in 2005 “to fend off President [George W.] Bush’s top policy priority at the time: privatizing Social Security.” Though Bush was proposing only to allow young workers to voluntarily divert a relatively small portion of their Social Security contributions into private accounts if they wished, AUFC accused Bush and “his allies in Congress” of seeking to “break the solemn promise America made to its senior citizens by dismantling Social Security with an expensive and risky privatization scheme.”
In 2006 AUFC adopted its new name and broadened its scope to include a wide range of policy issues in addition to Social Security—e.g., increasing the minimum wage; “improving access to affordable healthcare for all Americans” (which would eventually become the slogan for Obamacare); “making college more affordable” (the Democrats’ rationale for nationalizing the student loan industry); “protecting our homeland”; and developing a “responsible energy policy” (i.e., cap-and-trade). Targeting especially “key regions” where public opinion on such issues was split fairly evenly, AUFC ran a host of ads impugning the Bush administration’s so-called “stay the course” philosophy, in favor of a new mantra: “It’s time for a change.” That AUFC motto dovetailed seamlessly with “Change We Can Believe In,” the rallying cry of the 2008 presidential campaign of Barack Obama (whom AUFC strongly supported).
In addition to advertising initiatives like the one described above, AUFC disseminates its message to the public by means of targeted press and editorial outreach; online petitions and organizing; attention-getting events; grassroots organizing; community meetings; and aggressive public-relations tactics.
Though AUFC claims to be non-partisan and not “allied with any political party,” its agendas are entirely consistent with those of the Democrats. Indeed, the organization candidly seeks “to amplify the progressive message,” “contribute to a grass roots groundswell for progressive policies,” and “challeng[e] the far-right conservative voices and ideas that for too long have been mistaken for mainstream American values.”
In 2009, AUFC spent some $3.5 million on the production and airing of television advertisements promoting President Obama’s agendas vis à vis the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, healthcare, cap-and-trade, the national budget, and numerous other matters. According to the Capital Research Center, “Then-White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina collaborated with AUFC on strategy and ad copy, while senior presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett and her chief of staff, Michael Strautmanis, kept in regular contact with the organization.” The AFSCME, MoveOn, and the Service Employees International Union also helped cover the cost of the aforementioned advertisements.
Condemning the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision that allowed labor unions and corporations to pay for independently produced political ads, AUFC offered a $25,000 reward for anyone willing to step forward and report instances where his or her employer donated money to a Super PAC. As AUFC organizer and strategist Robert Creamer put it: “We think there are a lot of big corporations on the bubble about whether they’re going to use corporate funds to try to affect the outcome of the election. And we want to make it clear that they cannot take that kind of action without the risk of economic consequences.”
Cybercast News Service reporter Fred Lucas writes:
“Americans United for Change had shown its disdain for free political speech before, having joined a coalition of left-wing groups that advocated consumer boycotts, stockholder lawsuits, and orchestrated mischief at stockholder meetings to punish any company making contributions that may influence elections. Their partners included Common Cause, Public Citizen, Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending, SEIU, MoveOn, Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), Public Campaign Action Fund, Campaign for America’s Future, National People’s Action, Progress NOW, Every Child Matters, Health Care for America Now (HCAN), Occupy Wall Street, and USAction.”
In 2012, AUFC strongly supported President Obama’s re-election bid and aggressively tried to smear “the radical, do-nothing Republican Congress,” as consultant Robert Creamer called it. The organization also collaborated with the AFSCME to criticize Republican lawmakers for supporting tax breaks for high earners; derided Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as a “hundred-millionaire” who was out of touch with the needs and concerns of average Americans; and accused Congressional Republicans of voting to give massive subsidies to “big oil companies” while slashing budgets for Medicare and Medicaid.
In the summer of 2013, AUFC launched its Accountable Congress project, which: (a) provided liberal-left talking points on a host of political, social, and economic topics, and (b) urged people to use these talking points to challenge Republican officials at town hall meetings.
In January 2014, AUFC initiated a project called TeaPartyScorecard.com, which tracked and quantified the degree to which each Member of Congress in 2013 had supported Tea Party-backed legislation that was anathema to AUFC.
In October 2016, investigative journalist James O’Keefe’s “Project Veritas” released a series of undercover, hidden-camera videos showing that AUFC organizer/strategist Robert Creamer was a leading orchestrator of an initiative where the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign had been using trained provocateurs to instigate violence and chaos at Republican events nationwide – especially at rallies for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump – throughout that year’s election cycle. The purpose of this strategy, which was carried out in close coordination with the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign, was to create a public perception of “anarchy” around Trump, on the theory that its shock value would undermine his political support. For a detailed explanation of the strategy’s genesis and key operatives, click here.
AUFC’s major areas of concern today include the following:
* Health Care Reform: By AUFC’s reckoning, the health insurance industry does “everything in its power” to “protect [its] monopoly on our lives” by raising premiums needlessly, “denying medically necessary care,” “discriminating against those with preexisting conditions,” and “dropping coverage when people get sick”—all so the industry’s CEOs can earn “millions [of dollars] every year.” To address this problem, AUFC maintains that private ensurers should face “a little healthy competition from a public health insurance option” run by the government, “which would lower prices for everyone and ensure access to quality, affordable health care for all.” According to a Heritage Foundation analysis, however, such competition “would be rigged, with the government plan enjoying a number of advantages,” thereby “captur[ing] a large percentage of the insurance market … and undermining private insurance.”
* Financial Reform: Viewing free-market capitalism as a breeding ground for fraud and corruption, AUFC contends that a lack of sufficient oversight and regulation by the federal government permitted the financial services industry to engage in “the virtual free-for-all” of unethical and irresponsible lending practices “that brought us the subprime mortgage industry, the collapse of some of the nation’s biggest banks, and an economic meltdown of epic proportions” in 2008.
* Passing the Employee Free Choice Act: Lamenting that “our middle class is getting squeezed more and more each day” while “big corporations reap record profits,” AUFC condemns Big Business for caring more about “the bottom line” than about “sharing the wealth.” To help ensure that “our country’s wealth is shared by all,” the organization calls for the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) to give “every American worker … the freedom to join a union.” In practice, the EFCA would make it easier for labor organizers to intimidate workers into forming new unions, and would authorize federal arbitrators to render binding resolutions for any union negotiations that are not settled quickly—thereby vastly increasing the government’s dominion over the business world.
* Clean Energy: Proceeding from the premise that America’s “addiction to foreign oil” is a major source of “harmful pollution” and “climate change,” AUFC opposes any expansion of U.S. efforts to explore and drill for oil—calling instead for the development of “clean” alternatives such as wind and solar power.
* Protecting Medicare and Medicaid: “These programs need to be strengthened to ensure they remain available for future generations,” says AUFC, “which means not gutting and decimating benefits.” Notably, the organization does not address the fact that Medicare currently faces an unfunded liability of at least $38.6 trillion.
In 2010, AUFC received $500,000 from the Unity Fund—an entity whose directors included Patti Solis Doyle (a former Hillary Clinton campaign manager) and Louis Frillman (a Barack Obama campaign bundler). Other noteworthy donors to AUFC have been MoveOn PAC, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
Brad Woodhouse—who has held leadership positions with USAction, Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, and American Bridge 21st Century—has been president of AUFC since July 2013. He also served an earlier stint as AUFC president from March 2007 through February 2009, at which point he temporarily became a senior advisor for the Democratic National Committee.
Noteworthy members of AUFC’s board of directors include SEIU president Mary Kay Henry, longtime left-wing activist Mike Lux, Organizing For Action national chairman Jim Messina, USAction president Khalid Pitts, AFSCME president Lee Saunders, and American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten.
For a full list of AUFC board members, click here.