AOPA: We're Just Asking
The date on my AOPA card says I've been a member since 1986 and I realized last evening I had neglected to send in my renewal. I'll be taking care of that today because despite the little spat we've been having with the association, I intend to remain a member. And I'll get to why I think you should too in a moment.
Our coverage about salaries and expenses at AOPA stirred up a stronger reaction from the association than we ever imagined it would or that it deserved, frankly. In today's news column, we're publishing the follow-up story that we promised a month ago. I apologize that this took so long, but matching up schedules to set up interviews took time and we wanted to get this right.
Why do it at all? Why look into the financials of the industry's leading advocacy group? Because we were asked to, that's why. Readers of AVweb have periodically asked us to examine and evaluate the performance of our associations including how they spend the money they ask us to contribute. As an independent news organization, we can do for readers what associations can't: Offer an unbiased, objective look at how these organizations work. I think it's a reasonable thing to do. AOPA is, after all, a member-owned association.
To do this, however, we need the participation of the associations themselves. AOPA offered this in the form of a nearly two-hour interview with Craig Fuller and CFO Roger Myers and a long list of written questions. Unfortunately, for our initial story on salaries, the association didn't answer all of our queries, we never connected on an interview and, as a result, we misinterpreted some of the data on its IRS filings. Today's story clarifies that, but the larger picture is Fuller's explanation of how associations work and why their economics may seem alien to those of us in the private sector. I'm not sure we have enough of the details to tell the entire story, but we've made a start. In fact, over the weekend, Craig Fuller announced he'll look for ways to improve the association's transparency and governance.
There's no crusade on our part to diminish AOPA or even to suggest that the salaries it pays are too high. We are merely reporting on what it does pay and how it compares to other associations. Again, I think it's reasonable for a member who pays dues or contributes money to know how it's used in a forum outside the association itself. My view is that this increases member confidence in the association and makes it a more effective advocate.
That's not to say I agree with everything AOPA does or the positions it takes because I don't. Nor am I necessarily comfortable with all its budget decisions. But its advocacy work on behalf of GA is vital; it stands between its members and onerous government regulation; it alone offers the best chance to grow the pilot population. For those reasons, AOPA deserves our support. Nothing I've seen in our critical review of the association changes that view.