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updated 4/28/2005 9:32:37 PM ET 2005-04-29T01:32:37

It’s one of the most mainstream lobbying groups in American politics— the AARP. They welcome anybody over than 50. Most of the 36 million members join for the discount life insurance, cheap hotel rates, and financial advice.

The AARP takes a stand whenever there is a policy issue that affects older Americans. Two years ago, the organization supported the president’s prescription drug plan.

But now, the AARP is a conservative target because the group opposes the president’s plan to privatize Social Security. And this week, an ad appeared on Web sites claiming the AARP hates the military and loves gay marriage.

The effort to trash the membership-based AARP is being sponsored by a donor-based group called the United Seniors Association. That group, which plans to spend $10 million dollars on TV ads, refused to give Hardball their donor list. But the United Seniors Association shares the same address as a firm called O’Neill Marketing company. And that company spends ad money raised by the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the Republican Governor’s Association.

The attack on the AARP is also linked to a group that launched an attack last year on John Kerry. A Republican advertising firm that coordinated the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is also coordinating the ads aimed at the AARP.

Ironically, the AARP says it does not have a position on gay marriage, though it did oppose a ban in Ohio because the amendment also banned giving legal recognition to any union, including heterosexuals, like elderly widowers.

As for the military, the AARP says the claim that it doesn’t support the troops is absurd.

For the moment though, the AARP doesn’t plan to run advertise a response. Instead, it will stick with ads focused on Social Security.

Some strategists however, see a danger. John Kerry hurt himself by waiting weeks before responding to the Swift Boat attacks. And supporters of the AARP are urging that group to start fighting back.

The question is, does a vicious battle between lobbying groups help or hurt the debate over Social Security?

Check out the Technorati Cosmos for the blogs reporting on, and debating the subject.

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