AARP appreciates the opportunity to present its views regarding the important issue of reforming the laws regulating lobbying activities.
AARP is a non-profit and nonpartisan membership organization with more than 36 million members throughout the country. We are the largest organization representing Americans over the age of 50 and their families, and we have more than 300,000 volunteers who are active in their communities. Our citizen volunteers provide an important source of outreach and services to many older Americans across the country. They are advocates for older Americans and are a strong voice representing people over the age of 50 in public discussions and to their elected officials in local governments, state legislatures, as well as to their Senators and Representatives here in Washington and at home.
In addition, some 3 million of our members have indicated that they are interested in participating in state and federal issues. Millions more depend on AARP for information about issues that concern them and contact their elected officials by telephone, email or letters.
As a grassroots-based organization whose primary focus is on serving our members, AARP has offices and staff in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. In addition to our paid advocacy staff in the states, we also have an advocacy staff at the National Office in Washington that represents our members to Congress and the Executive Branch. As a strictly nonpartisan organization we do not have a political action committee and we do not endorse candidates.
Recently, the news has been full of stories about the need to reform the laws which govern lobbying. It is clear that the excesses of some paid lobbyists for special interests point to the need for a thorough examination and reform of the system. AARP strongly supports this effort to make our government more transparent to citizens, and we commend Chairman Collins and Senator Lieberman for holding this hearing.
Nothing less than the confidence of America's citizens in their government is at stake here, so we urge Congress to strive for effective reforms. We hope that legislation that is considered by the Senate will not be simply a reaction to the more egregious behavior of some lobbyists. We urge the Senate to stay focused on the long-term goal of improving the transparency of the system and eliminating the undue influence of moneyed or special interests. A business as usual approach would seriously undermine the trust of Americans in their democracy and the representatives who they elect to serve them.
Ensuring that citizens have access to their elected representatives both directly and through organizations that represent them is just as important as reforming the system to eliminate the undue influence of special or moneyed interests. Therefore, we would like to take this opportunity to offer some views on balancing these two important objectives.
AARP has long supported measures that aim to ensure the integrity of lobbying practices.