By Paige Winfield Cunningham
Congressional Republicans are demanding that the country's largest senior advocacy group answer charges that it sacrificed the interests of older Americans in order to help muster support for President Obama's health care law in 2010.
A group of GOP House and Senate lawmakers asked the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) to explain the extent to which it coordinated with the White House to garner support for bill, the latest GOP attack on the administration for allegedly negotiating backroom deals to get the law passed.
Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have charged that the administration heavily influenced the AARP as it advocated for the health care law, releasing emails and documents indicating that top White House officials asked the group to win over support from key lawmakers, contribute to a political action committee running ads for the bill and reward supportive lawmakers with positive ads later on.
They contend the AARP disregarded its 38 million members by working with the White House, citing polls showing that a majority of seniors opposed Mr. Obama's plan.
"If the [committee] report is accurate, we believe AARP failed its membership by allowing White House officials to direct your organization's grassroots and congressional advocacy efforts," Republican Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and John Barrasso of Wyoming, and Reps. Charles W. Boustany Jr. of Louisiana and Phil Gingrey of Georgia wrote in a letter to AARP CEO Barry Rand.
Democrats on the House committee have condemned the efforts to probe lobbying surrounding the health care fight as a partisan waste of time.
In their letter to the AARP, the GOP lawmakers asked the group if it tried to influence Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska to vote for the bill on behalf of the White House, whether the seniors' group gave money to the White House PAC "Healthy Economy Now" and how many lawmakers it thanked through ads for supporting the law.
"These facts suggest a clear conflict of interest on the part of AARP and make us question the justification your organization used to support the president´s law," they wrote.