Off Beat: Wally Herger on the attack
You won't have Rep. Wally Herger to kick around much longer, but that doesn't mean Herger can't continue to kick around AARP.
Herger, in one of his final, major acts as a congressman, has decided to take on the largest organization that lobbies for seniors.
As noted by the Seattle Times last week, Herger, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee on Health, and a Republican member of that panel, Rep. Dave Reichert, are demanding more answers for AARP and how it came to support President Barack Obama's Affordable Health Care Act. You may have heard of it. It generated some news on Thursday and Friday, courtesy of the Supreme Court.
In any event, last Monday, days before the Supreme Court's historic ruling, Herger and Reichert fired off a letter to AARP's CEO.
"During the health care debate in 2009 and 2010, we engaged in an energetic and detailed discussion regarding AARP's support of legislative proposals cutting Medicare by hundreds of billions of dollars to pay for a new entitlement our country could not afford and many of your members would not benefit from," Herger and Reichert wrote. "When pressed about AARP's incongruous position, AARP argued that it was solely representing the interest of its members."
Their letter then cites emails from AARP executives in 2009, which were recently released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. According to those emails, AARP executives received calls against the Obama bill at a rate of "14 to 1."
Another email said the organization received 1,400 to 1,600 calls per day "with the vast majority in opposition."
Some AARP members were also quitting, the emails noted.
Herger and Reichert, in their letter, pounced on what they called the "significant and glaring discrepancy between AARP's actions and responses to our previous Congressional investigation."
So they want more emails, more meeting transcripts and "other materials" from 2009-11.
Last year, the Times noted in its story, "Reichert and House GOP members released a report purporting to reveal AARP's motives: the nonprofit group's taxable subsidiary stands to reap more than $1 billion in revenue over the next decade under the law by selling AARP-branded Medicare plans."
The Times pointed out that in March of this year, a poll by the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation found that 44 percent of seniors viewed the law favorably, while 42 percent were opposed.
"Fifty-nine percent of all Americans said they did not have enough information to know the law would affect them personally," the Times said.