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Washington, D.C. – Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sent a letter to Mark T. Bertolini, chairman, CEO, and president of the insurance giant Aetna, asking his company to stop using corporate funds to influence elections.  This request follows an SNL Financial story revealing that Aetna has contributed more than $3.3 million to the American Action Network (AAN) and nearly $4.5 million to the Chamber of Commerce.

UPDATE: We detail Aetna’s response to our letter

AAN is a shadowy 501(c)(4) organization that broke both tax and campaign finance laws in its quest to influence the 2010 elections, and the Chamber is one of the biggest political players. While corporations traditionally pay dues to the Chamber, in 2010 Aetna reported dues of just $100,000 – almost $4.4 million less than Aetna contributed to the Chamber in 2011.  These payments indicate Aetna surreptitiously has spent well over $7 million to influence Americans at the polls.

“Aetna wants to get rid of its political opponents without being held accountable by its shareholders or customers for funding vicious attack ads,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “If Aetna intends to use corporate funds to sway the elections in 2012, Mr. Bertolini should come clean and stop hiding behind AAN’s skirt.”

AAN, chaired by former Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN), spent millions of dollars during the 2010 elections attempting to persuade Americans to vote against Democratic congressional candidates.  Last week, CREW filed its second complaint with the IRS and its first complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against AAN.  CREW explained that by spending over 66% of its budget on campaign ads and by failing to register as a political committee and report its spending, AAN had violated tax and campaign finance laws.

At a recent Aetna shareholder meeting, Mr. Bertolini had spoken in favor of transparency and accountability, arguing a proposal to require greater disclosure of Aetna’s political spending was unwarranted.  Ironically, Aetna appears to have mistakenly disclosed the payments to AAN and the Chamber on a filing with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.  Aetna later amended the filing to delete the payments.

Sloan continued, “I wonder how much influence Aetna has on exactly which lawmakers AAN and the Chamber target?  Just because Aetna isn’t telling the public what it’s up to, doesn’t mean the company is hiding its political activities from everyone.  I’m sure Aetna is expecting lawmakers to express their gratitude with legislative favors.  Just like these grateful lawmakers, Americans should know what Aetna is really doing with their insurance premiums.”


Melanie on The Bill Press Show talking about what we found