Insurance companies, including American International Group (AIG), spent nearly $36 million in recent years on political contributions to members of Congress, according to the Consumer Watchdog and the Center for Responsive Politics. Also among the big givers were Hartford Financial and Lincoln Financial, two companies that are in line to get billions in TARP funds from the U.S. Treasury.
Congressmen who have benefited from the insurers largesse include powerhouse names like the former Republican presidential candidate Arizona Sen. John McCain, who received $2.3 million, Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd, who got $1.1 million and Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Paul Kanjorski with nearly half a million dollars.
Sen. Dodd heads the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over insurance matters, and Rep. Kanjorski chairs the House Financial Services Subcommittee.
Consumer Watchdog says that insurers are hoping that Congress will support their effort to opt out of state regulation in favor of a federal regulator.
Critics like New York Insurance Superintendent Eric Dinallo counter that insurers shouldn't be allowed to go "regulator-shopping" and that the current state-run system is working. The well-documented failure of AIG occurred because it was able to put its credit default swaps unit under the Office of Thrift Supervision, which regulates savings and loans.
AIG, which received a federal bailout of $83 billion last September, was among the biggest contributors, spending at least $484,000 on Congress.
But it was dwarfed by others, such as Liberty Mutual, with a $916,000 contribution.
Hartford Financial and Lincoln National contributed nearly $830,000 to Congressional political coffers. They are due to get nearly $6 billion from the U.S. Treasury Department's TARP funds. Another big donor was the American Council of Life Insurers, the lobbying organization that fought to help these insurers get access to TARP. It contributed $566,000 to Congress.