THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION of Retired Persons, with 33 million members, is a lobbying gorilla that politicians haven't dared to cross. Until now. Senate Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Alan Simpson (R-Wy.) intends to investigate $86 million in federal grants the AARP received last year. The group says the money was used for such services as tax counseling for the elderly and helping low-income seniors find subsidized employment. Nonetheless, Simpson calls the AARP "33 million people united by a love of airline discounts." Rather than speaking for the elderly, Simpson believes, the AARP is running a discount travel, insurance, and pharmaceutical business. Those sorts of activities, he notes, generate more than half the organization's income. Most surprising: Simpson is up for reelection in 1996.

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