DC Pollster Hired to Run Focus Groups
Participants in the AFM-EPF Pension Plan have recently begun receiving e-mails from Geoff Garen, President of the well-known Washington DC polling and political strategy firm Hart Associates. They are offering $100 to musicians to participate in focus groups: “We believe the insights you possess and the experiences you have had would be extremely valuable to the Fund as it seeks to better understand the perspective of plan participants and to provide them with helpful and timely information about the fund.”
So, who is Geoff Garen, and why is he being paid with our hard earned and scarce pension dollars?
Geoff Garen is a pollster and political strategist who has worked on the campaigns of many Democratic politicians, including Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Mark Warner and Diane Feinstein. He is the man behind the now much-ridiculed attempt to re-brand the Democratic Party: the so-called “Better Deal” economic agenda, which was rolled out in July 2017. Widely seen as a poll-driven and focus group-driven set of talking points, “The better deal is covered not as an ongoing messaging effort but as one event in July that quickly lost voters’ attention,” said the Washington Post. “It quickly disappeared.”
We are sure Geoff Garen is very good at what he does, which is furthering the careers of image-conscious politicians. The problem is that the AFM-EPF trustees are not politicians. They are supposed to be guardians and fiduciaries of our pension, not supporting their own self-interests.
When they hire a political consultant, it is not because they want to understand us better or to communicate with us better. It is because they want to limit the reputational damage that they have suffered from their miserable stewardship of our pension fund. But the trustees have a problem: their failures are just too obvious at this point and no political strategist will be able to fix that. Other pension funds in the entertainment industry are operating at healthy levels and with expenses well within their means. Our own sister fund in Canada is doing fine. Our pension plan stands alone for its remarkably abysmal performance. No amount of spinning or messaging is going to be able to change that.
As our pension plan approaches critical and declining status, trustees should be making extraordinary efforts to cut down on expenses. Instead, our trustees are burning through our hard-earned pension dollars more than ever before. They are hiring layers upon layers of expensive investment managers, consultants, law firms and now pollsters. In a year when AFM-EPF narrowly staved off being in critical and declining status, every dollar is precious. The trustees are spending our hard-earned pension dollars to rehabilitate their image, and that is an outrage.
You don’t need a pollster to know that.
*We’ve received multiple emails asking whether plan participants should take part in these focus groups. Our response is you should absolutely. Ask the tough questions, tell Geoff Garen what actions you would like the trustees to take and let the data they collect communicate how you feel about the current leadership of the AFM-EPF.