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Since You Asked: AARP owned by whom?

Lately there have been a lot of commercials on TV by AARP. Just who owns AARP? I really enjoy your explanations.

— Katherine H., Talent

Keep this to yourself: AARP is owned by the Masons, in cahoots with TriLateral Commission and the Illuminati, Katherine. Keep away from this dastardly and nefarious subversive group lest they brainwash you into seeking senior discounts at your local diner!

The former American Association of Retired Persons is a nonprofit organization with 39 million members managed by a board that operates the AARP Foundation charity and the AARP Services branch, which provides everything from reverse mortgages to participating retailer discounts for members to things like Tax-Aide services.

Essentially, the AARP owns itself. And it's an enormously powerful lobby organization based in Washington, D.C., so its staff can be close to the people who make decisions affecting seniors, who get a big chunk of federal spending through various social services. AARP is a tenacious fighter to defend those services from cuts.

AARP must pay for all it does — a staggering $1.01 billion in revenue in 2006 and $1.04 billion in spending — somehow, and it does that through membership dues, AARP magazine advertising and by taking a royalty fee on the products and services sold using AARP's name.

So those commercials you see are recruiting new members or selling AARP sponsored services to generate more revenue for the nonprofit. You're likely to see lots more ads as the organization seeks to capture the giant baby boomer demographic now entering retirement.

Find out more and examine their financials at aarp.org online.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com.