June 14, 2012

Aetna Responds to CREW: You’re Right

By Melanie Sloan

Melanie SloanWithin hours of our letter to Aetna Chair, CEO and President Mark Bertolini, Mr. Bertolini responded with a laughable letter basically conceding we got it right.

Mr. Bertolini does his best to put a positive spin on the revelation that Aetna has contributed over $7 million to the American Action Network and the Chamber of Commerce.  He agrees, as CREW exposed, that Aetna is actively engaging in partisan politics, and the company mistakenly disclosed the payments on its NAIC filing.

Mr. Bertolini notes the payments didn’t need to be disclosed because they were not made for lobbying purposes, which is, of course, exactly the point.  Not surprisingly, once a reporter questioned the company about the expenditures, Aetna couldn’t move fast enough to try and keep the payments from ever becoming public.

Too bad for Aetna the genie is out of the bottle.

As for Mr. Bertolini’s insistence that the money was for “educational activities,” CREW documented in its letter to the IRS that over 66% of AAN’s budget has gone to political ads. Maybe Mr. Bertolini is arguing that the attack ads for which AAN and the Chamber are well-known are educational? We can’t know -- because Mr. Bertolini is under no legal obligation to tell us and he made no effort to explain -- exactly what supposedly educational activities Aetna supported. We don’t know whether Aetna had a say in the content of the vicious attack ads or helped determine which lawmakers were targeted.

What we do know, however, is that Mr. Bertolini has been spending his customers’ money trying to secretly influence their votes. Not everyone will thank him.

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