PJ Media

My OFA (Organizing for Astroturfing) Adventure

I hope the establishment media is monitoring and interested in reporting the real results of the attempt by Organizing for Astroturfing, er, America, to lobby individual members of Congress to support ObamaCare. Sadly, I doubt they are.

If what I have learned this week holds elsewhere, it will turn out to have been a complete bust and will demonstrate that, despite attempts to make it appear otherwise, there is no grassroots groundswell for statist health care.

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On Sunday evening, I received a compelling email that I simply could not ignore calling me to action (click here to see a graphic of the full email):

All throughout August, our members of Congress are back in town. Insurance companies and partisan attack groups are stirring up fear with false rumors about the president’s plan, and it’s extremely important that folks like you speak up now.

So we’ve cooked up an easy, powerful way for you to make a big impression: Office Visits for Health Reform.

All this week, OFA members like you will be stopping by local congressional offices to show our support for insurance reform.

Sign up now to visit Rep. Jean Schmidt’s office in Cincinnati this week.

Well, as a bona fide, long-ago signed-up “member” of Organizing for Astroturfing, er, America, I could not turn down such an important request. (Never mind that the email refers to “health reform” and “insurance reform,” which, last time I checked, are different things.)

So I went to the OFA website and found this sign-up form (red box at link added by me). It informed me of the 2nd District Republican’s office hours, address, and phone number, and asked me to select a time to visit. You’ll notice that the form also required me to provide my phone number, “so that an organizer can follow up with you.” How thoughtful.

Separately, in keeping with the spirit of the OFA email, I “cooked up” the idea of also visiting the office of 1st District Rep. Steve Driehaus, whose district’s boundary is about ten miles away from the BizzyBlog bunker. Driehaus is, at least in theory, one of the “on the fence” Blue Dog Democrats. At an August 4 town hall meeting that made national news, he got an earful from those opposed to the plan and told those who attended that he hasn’t decided how he will vote. Thus, Driehaus is a guy OFA should be targeting.

I made a commitment to visit Schmidt’s office at 4:00 p.m. on Monday, August 10, and to visit Driehaus at 3:00 p.m. In each case, I received a confirming email response that also directed me to a two-page “Office Visits for Health Reform Guide” (PDF).

As you’ll see, the guide has a few amazing claims, with no sourcing, about “the cost of inaction in Ohio”:

  • 1,500,000 are uninsured today in Ohio and 1,180 Ohioans will lose their health coverage every week because of rising costs.
  • The average family premium in Ohio costs $1,000 more because our system fails to cover everyone.
  • Our broken health insurance system will cost the Ohio economy as much as $7.1 billion this year in productivity losses due to lack of coverage.

I did my own sourcing and determined that the claims are either flat-out wrong or squishy deceptions.

It may be that 1.5 million Ohioans are uninsured at some time during any given year, which is the operating definition of the Census Bureau, but they are not, as the first point contends, uninsured “today.”

The second assertion comes from the far-left and conceptually challenged Center for American Progress. CAP’s alleged average national per-family premium addition due to uninsured care is $1,100; Ohio’s average is $1,000. CAP naively assumes that every dollar of care provided for free is automatically added to premiums. That’s obviously baloney for more reasons than can be counted here. One of the biggest is that the figures providers report as non-reimbursed care often are at “list” prices that don’t reflect what patients with negotiated rates would pay. Another is that providers include fixed costs in their figures, while the true out-of-pocket costs of providing uninsured care are mostly variable.

The third claim, also from CAP, is an updated torturing of a 2003 study from the Institute of Medicine, which at the time speculated that “insuring the uninsured could yield $65-$130 billion in better health each year.” Six years later, CAP has almost doubled that figure to $124-$248 billion. Ohio’s share of the higher number is $7.1 billion, which OAF, deceptively using non-speculative terms, entirely and erroneously ascribes to “productivity.”

The guide also has a small space where an OFA visitor can handwrite his or her own message to their congressperson.

Now let’s get back to my OFA field trip.

Since Congressman Driehaus’ office is on the 30th floor of a downtown office building, most of his constituents can’t come to see him unless they pay to park somewhere (as I did). Of all the sites he could have picked as his one and only First District office, he picked one at its furthest southeast end downtown. This doesn’t seem like a guy who’s a man of the peeps.

I got there at 3:25 p.m. You might think that I was worried about being late. After all, the rest of the 3:00 p.m. OFA crowd might have filled up the available meeting room and my precious activist voice might not be heard.

Not exactly.

That’s because I was the first and only visitor from Organizing for Astroturfing, er, America, that day. This either means that no one from OFA had committed to visit Driehaus’ office during any of the previous six hours or that, if they did, they didn’t show up.

Because Driehaus was not available, the front-desk person located the congressman’s community outreach/field representative, who told me that he had to be on a conference call shortly. He gave me his business card and said that he would be glad to meet with me at some other time to discuss ObamaCare. Since I didn’t get a chance to do so during the visit, I separately spoke with that person on Wednesday and told him that I oppose ObamaCare and that the congressman, both as a representative and as a Catholic, should vote against it. Frankly (I didn’t say this at the time, but should have), if alleged Catholic and Cincinnati Bishop Elder High School graduate Steve Driehaus doesn’t understand how fundamentally immoral ObamaCare’s statist health care is, especially from a Catholic perspective — even if abortion is totally excised from it — he’s beyond help.

Because my visit to Driehaus’ office was so brief, I was able to get to Congresswoman Jean Schmidt’s office 13 miles away on time to meet my 4:00 p.m. “commitment.” Ms. Schmidt was not there. The front-desk person at Ms. Schmidt’s office (which, by contrast, is located in a building where visitors can park for free), showed me that he had three earlier visitors who had dropped off their OFA “fact sheets.” One, who had written the word “FREEDOM” in large letters inside OFA’s message box, used the opportunity to encourage Ms. Schmidt to continue to oppose ObamaCare. I did as well, without bothering to print anything out. The other two visitors to Schmidt’s office that day were ObamaCare supporters.

So let’s recap: In 15 possible visiting hours on Monday, the two members of Congress had four OFA visitors — two for ObamaCare and two against. I have since followed up with the offices of Schmidt and Southwestern Ohio’s 8th District congressman, Republican John Boehner. They have reported slightly higher turnouts, but they were averaging nowhere near even one person per office per hour overall as of late Tuesday afternoon.

* * *

I doubt that readers are blown away by the grassroots support Organizing for Astroturfing, er, America, has been able to generate.

Now you know that if OFA brags about how many of its people pestered their congresspersons this week to support the president’s statist health care designs, you can subtract at least two alleged supporters, and perhaps many more, from that total. Based on my experience, if OFA tries to claim that thousands upon thousands of its “members” visited their representatives, you have great reason to doubt them. Beyond that, even OFA doesn’t really know if the people who had committed to visiting really did.

I sense an epic fail. How will the establishment media report it? Or will they?