The main story discusses AARP's role in the healthcare debate.The companion piece delves into AARP's lobbying army:
AARP, the powerful seniors group with 40 million members, is drawing political fire for its support of Democratic health care legislation increasing regulation of the industry and cutting Medicare benefits.
The senior-citizens group, founded in 1959, has become a sprawling billion-dollar financial and political powerhouse that does far more than simply publish a couple of newsletters and find discounts for seniors. And increasingly, its political and financial relationships have put the group's leadership at odds with its members, critics charge.
In lending its lobbying muscle to current Democratic health care bills, AARP is providing a formidable ally.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, AARP has spent $170 million on lobbying since 1998, making it the largest nonprofit lobbying group by orders of magnitude. AARP's lobbying budget regularly exceeds that of defense giants such as Lockheed Martin, the drug lobby and the insurance lobby. With more than 60 in-house lobbyists, AARP has one of the largest influence armies in town (by comparison, the National Rifle Association employs only 13 registered lobbyists).