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.
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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...