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Aarp – You Don’t Need to Be Political – Just Smart!

In: Social Issues

Submitted By barrys118
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As I read through the interest group website on group that stood out for me was the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). I was surprised to see that it was one of the top 25 most influential special interest groups listed (Interest 2002). My husband is over 50 and I am fast-approaching that age. He is a member of AARP and as a spouse so am I. We get the newsletters and e-mail but I never really paid much attention to the influence AARP had over policies affecting people over 50. The main theme of my paper is how AARP’s organization and lobbying efforts show that to be a force to be reckoned with, an interest group can use money and sheer numbers to get it’s point across. First let’s define what a lobbying is. According to Encyclopedia Britannica “lobbying, any attempt by individuals or private interest groups to influence the decisions of government; in its original meaning it referred to efforts to influence the votes of legislators, generally in the lobby outside the legislative chamber. Lobbying in some form is inevitable in any political system” (Britannica 2011).
The organization I chose to write about was formerly known as the National Retired Teachers Association. “Because of its broader focus on issues ranging from medical care, social security, health and welfare, aging, insurance, financial planning, and consumer protection, the name was officially changed in 1999 to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)” (Money Matters 2011). AARP is a “nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50 and over improve the quality of their lives” (AARP 2011). As mentioned above, AARP is involved with many concerns affecting those in their 50s and beyond.
“AARP’s mission is to enhance the quality of life for all as we age, leading positive social change, and delivering value to members through information, advocacy, and service” AARP strives for social change through advocacy, community service, publications and media, research and offering various products and services.
Members of AARP are individuals aged 50 or older. Spouses of the member (although not 50 years of age) are eligible for member ship if their spouse is a member. Nowhere on the website does AARP mention how many members they have. In researching the numbers vary from 27 million to 35 million members.
AARP is comprised of different legal entities but “speaks with one voice – all united by a common motto:”To serve, not to be served.”” (AARP 2011) The following entities are part of the AARP umbrella: AARP Foundation which is the charitable affiliate of AARP; AARP Services, Inc., which is a taxable subsidiary of AARP; AARP Financial, Inc. which is a wholly owned subsidiary of AARP Services; AARP Global Network which is an alliance with other likeminded nonpartisan, national organizations; and NRTA:AARP’s Educator Community that was formerly known as the National Retired Teachers Association which is a division of AARP dedicated to education (AARP 2011).
Although I could find no published budget for AARP according to Steven Holmes of the New York Times, AARP’s budget in 2001 was $435 million (Holmes 2001). According to Robert Samuelson of the Washington Post, AARPs budget in 2004 was nearly $900 million (Samuelson 2005).
AARP advocates change for the elderly on both the national and state levels. One of the main legislative issues before Congress is healthcare reform. In a statement released on 19 March 2010, AARP announced its support for health insurance reform legislation that included key provisions for health insurance of Americans 50 and older (Breaking 2010). As we all know this is a very controversial issue. To show what power AARP has in Congress, in an article written on 16 April 2011, the passage of the healthcare reform bill required the President to make a deal with several agencies, among them AARP. AARP was guaranteed the Medicare Advantage program would be terminated and replaced by AARP’s Medi-gap program (Healthfinger 2011) Through all my research I could find nowhere that AARP had any type of legislative defeat. They pretty much get what they want. I daresay they are the most influential interest group in Washington. As a matter of fact,
AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. AARP gets their money and power through their membership and staying contact with their members. They send out a monthly newspaper, two bimonthly magazines and have an e-mail list of 2.5 million political activists. According to Robert Bixby of the Concord Coalition (a budget watch group), “aside from the president, only AARP can set the terms of debate on federal retirement programs, meaning mainly Social Security, Medicare and long-term care through Medicaid” (Samuelson 2004) AARP is one of the biggest voices in the United States on behalf of all people aged 50 and older. Because of AARPs size they are able to lobby for all types of reform for their special group. One does not have to be a member of AARP to reap to benefits. The leaders of AARP were very smart in how they arranged this organization. AARP is both a for-profit and nonprofit organization depending on what division one is looking at. AARP is able to affect political processes and public policy by using their dollars and their strength in numbers. But, use their political influence on the nonprofit side. It is a win-win situation for everyone involved. I daresay that a portion of AARP is interested in personal gain. And yes, who isn’t? However the political clout that this organization has in phenomenal. AARP has one special interest- people over the age of 50. Through their for profit entities AARP is able to use that money as clout to lobbyto get policies and processes changed. They are the ultimate lobbyist for the seniors.

References
Interest Groups [Top 25 Most Influential Interest Groups in Washington DC]. (2002, October 2). Retrieved April 28, 2011, from http://faculty.ucc.edu/ egh-damerow/interest_groups1.htm
Encyclopedia Britannica [Definition of Lobbying]. (n.d.). Retrieved May 3, 2011, from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/345407/lobbying
Money Matters 101 [Retirement - AARP]. (n.d.). Retrieved April 30, 2011, from http://www.moneymatters101.com/retirement/aarp.asp
AARP - American Association of Retired Persons [History - Background]. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2011, from http://www.aarp.org
Holmes, S. A. (2001, March 21). The World According to AARP [Article]. Retrieved May 4, 2011, from http://www.nytimes.com/2001/03/21/jobs/ the-world-according-to-aarp.html
Samuelson, R. J. (2005, November 16). AARP's America is a Mirage [Article]. Retrieved May 2, 2011, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/ article/2005/11/15/AR2005111501308.html
Breaking News: AARP Supports Health Insurance Reform Legislation Before Congress [The Gavel ]. (2010, March 19). Retrieved May 3, 2011, from http://www.democraticleader.gov/blog/?p=2201

The President and Congress Need Healthcare? (2011, April 16). Retrieved May 4, 2011, from Healthfinger website: http://www.healthfinger.com/womens-health/ health-care/the-president-and-congress-need-health-care.html

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