New AARP chief gave big to Obama

Incoming AARP CEO A. Barry Rand contributed $8,900 to President Obama's campaign committees, federal records show.

Rand, a retired senior executive at Xerox Corp., Avis Group and Equitant Inc. and the current chairman of Howard University's board of trustees, gave the maximum $4,600 to Obama's election campaign and an additional $4,300 to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising entity of Obama and the Democratic National Committee.

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Altogether, Rand has given $15,900 to Democratic campaign committees since 1995, according to searches of Federal Election Commission databases dating back to 1990 that are maintained by CQ Money Line and the Center for Responsive Politics.

As an organization, the AARP strenuously insists on its nonpartisan identity, and its senior leadership ranks include executives with both Democratic and Republican backgrounds. The AARP also is atypical among Washington's heavy hitters because it does not have a political action committee (PAC), make political contributions or endorse candidates.

The AARP announced Thursday that Rand would replace Bill Novelli, its CEO since 2001, as of April 6.

Because of the AARP's fierce defenses of entitlement programs, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, many Republicans consider the group to have Democratic leanings. The AARP, however, has a strong independent streak. During the George W. Bush administration, the group angered Democrats by putting its full weight behind Bush's Medicare prescription drug benefit bill in 2003, then turned around in 2005 to play a major part in killing Bush's attempt to add private investment accounts to Social Security.

Nearly all of Rand's campaign contributions came during the 2007-2008 election cycle. In addition to the $8,900 he gave to Obama, Rand contributed $4,500 to a leadership PAC maintained by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), the National Leadership PAC, between 2004 and 2008. Rand also gave $500 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) in 2007, $1,000 to the unsuccessful Senate campaign of then-Rep. Harold Ford (D-Tenn.) in 2006 and $1,000 to President Clinton's reelection campaign in 1995.

Except for the donations to Clinton and the DSCC, Rand's other contributions went to fundraising committees supporting black candidates. Rand became the first-ever black CEO of a Fortune 500 company when he took the helm at Avis, where he also was chairman of the board, in 1999. He was chairman and CEO of Equitant from 2001 until 2005, when he retired. Rand will be the AARP's first black chief executive.

In contrast to Rand, Novelli made only three contributions between 1990 and 2008. Novelli gave $500 to Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) presidential campaign in 1999, $1,000 to the failed reelection campaign of then-Rep.Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky (D-Pa.) in 1999 and $700 to New York Democrat Mark Green's failed Senate bid in 1998. Novelli made all of these contributions while he was president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.