I think of the AARP as a good organization, one that looks out for the needs of its elderly members and keeps them informed on relevant issues. As such, I would have thought that the AARP would be one of the most non-controversial advocacy groups in Washington. But apparently not.
Politico recently reported that a new anti-AARP group is being formed to counteract what it believes is a left-wing agenda of the AARP. The new group, which is called the Alliance for Retirement Prosperity [update 01/12/12: There used to be a link here, but I took it down because the site had turned into an ad site. I guess the Alliance didn't work out], has its cross hairs fixed on repealing President Obama’s recent health care law and reforming Medicare and Medicaid. Its purpose is to provide a “conservative challenge” to the AARP. With a only about $5 million in funding compared to the AARP’s $1.42 billion (with a “b”) in revenues in 2009 alone, it has its work cut out for it. But it seems to be off to a fairly decent start.
What intrigues me most about this group is its business model. The Alliance will be a for-profit endeavor. Alliance President Larry Hunter, who is also a top Republican advisor, believes the group’s for-profit status will differentiate it from other advocacy groups that have unsuccessfully attempted to compete with the AARP. Hunter stated:
As a for-profit business, the Alliance will use the market forces of competition among its vendors to deliver a wider array of products and services at better prices to its members.
In contrast, most advocacy groups (like AARP) are non-profit. I am an advocate for nonprofits and have represented a fair number of them. But I must admit that at times I don’t see a policy justification for exempting certain activities from taxation. And I have sometimes wondered if the lack of a profit model contributes to the lackluster performance of some membership-based nonprofits. I expect that most folks will view the stated purposes of the Alliance with it’s for-profit model in mind. After all, we know that some people could get rich off of this, and we must assume that this is at least one if not the primary purpose of the group’s founders. But it will be interesting to see the organization can overcome the “taint” of the for-profit motive to achieve its policy objectives.