October 28, 2009 9:28 a.m.

The GOP’s new line of attack against health care reform is starting to sound familiar.

On Monday, we reported on the House GOP’s plans to target AARP in the health care reform debate. Republican leaders say AARP is supporting changes to the Medicare system included in Democratic health care reform bills because they would result in more sales of AARP-branded insurance. They claim that “backroom deals” between executives of the AARP and Democratic leadership — deals the GOP say are designed to protect the executives’ high salaries — led to the group’s pro-Medicare reform stance.

Yesterday, the message gained traction among the right wing commentariat. AARP flatly denies the claims and says it’s beginning to feel a little like the GOP’s new ACORN.

“Oh, absolutely,” an AARP official told TPMDC. “They’re using their standard methods to target us.”

Yesterday, right wing blogs and publications picked up the story. Michelle Malkin retweeted the House GOP talking points on the topic and Human Events published a story echoing the GOP claims. Malkin and the conservative magazine focused on the corruption message, highlighting the “back-room” dealing.

The GOP is using more than just rhetoric to go after the group. Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) claims to have launched an investigation into AARP in his home state. Reichert says his “ongoing” investigation focuses on whether AARP should be classified as an insurance company because of its revenue from royalties the group gets from licensing its brand for insurance products. AARP says it’s not aware of the investigation, and Reichert suggested to reporters Monday that it was essentially stalled. But the question of whether AARP is an insurance company or not is at the center of the GOP messaging on the group.

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For their part, AARP officials say they’re not worried about being taken down by the GOP attacks in the same way that ACORN was. The group has been accused of conflicts of interest many times over the years, most notably during the 2003 debate over the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage plan. Back then, it was Democrats who vilified the AARP, claiming there was a conflict behind the the group’s support for the bill, which helped to guarantee its passage.

The AARP official we spoke to said there was a different tone to those Democratic attacks however. This time around, Republicans are directly accusing the AARP of corruption and secret dealings. The official was confident the AARP will weather the controversy but said it’s clear the GOP has put the group in its sights.

“It’s our turn,” the official said.

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