Congressional Republicans are demanding that the country's largest senior advocacy group respond to charges that it sacrificed the interests of older Americans in order to help muster support for President Obama's health care law.
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 the Affordable Care Act, the latest GOP attack on the administration for negotiating backroom deals over health care reform.
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 advertising the law and reward supportive lawmakers with positive ads later on.
They say 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 Boustany 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.
Republicans have shifted their attention to the seniors group after releasing a yearlong investigation earlier this month on the administration's negotiations with the nation's top drug companies, where GOP investigators contend top officials threatened Drug firms with steeper taxes if they resisted and promised a better financial deal if they acquiesced.
The probes come as both supporters and opponents of Mr. Obama's health care overhaul plan wait for the Supreme Court to rule on the law's constitutionality in the coming days.
But the materials released by the Republicans in recent weeks also provide a rare insider look at the wheeling and dealing on Capitol Hill as Mr. Obama tried to shepherd his bill through Congress in 2009 and 2010, in the face of near-unanimous GOP opposition.
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 it 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.