KING 5 Ad Watch: Where's the AIG connection?

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by ROBERT MAK / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on October 25, 2010 at 7:10 AM

Commercial: "A-I-G, they  helped ruin our economy."

No question, many people see AIG as the posterchild of problems on Wall Street.  Even in Seattle, where AIG has only a small office, people protested as taxpayers poured in nearly $130 billion to keep the financial institution from going under.

Commercial: "They've ripped off workers and been charged with fraud across America."

Now comes this commercial from opponents of Initiative 1082.  They're urging you to vote no and warning that AIG is really the one behind the initiative.

Currently, most workers and employers pay premiums to Washington state so that if you're ever injured on the job, you're covered through the state's workers compensation program.  I-1082 would allow employers to choose a private insurance company instead, if they're not satisfied with the state.  Supporters say private insurance is cheaper and more efficient.  But opponents say if you're injured, you'd rather deal with the state than your employer's insurance company.

Commercial: "Now, A-I-G wants to take over Washington's workers comp program, so they can make millions in profits, while denying legitimate claims."

In other states where it's allowed, AIG has offered workers compensation coverage.  It was at one time, about 15% of its insurance business.  And it's true, AIG has been charged with fraud.  But let's look at the main claim of the ad.  Does AIG really want to take over workers compensation in Washington state?

We checked records at the Public Disclosure Commission, which tracks state campaign donations.  AIG and its insurance subsidiaries have not donated any money to 1082.  A company spokesman tells us AIG has "nothing to do" with the initiative.  In fact, since the company bailout a couple years ago, AIG is largely owned by taxpayers and under pressure from Congress, the company shut down its lobbying operations.  If you look at a chart of its political contributions, there have been virtually none since 2008.

Commercial:  "Vote no on Initiative 1082.  It's good for A-I-G, but not for you."

Make no mistake, insurance companies stand to benefit from 1082.  Top donors include Liberty Mutual and Hartford Financial.  But opponents put AIG in their ad presumably because of its soiled reputation.  Fact is, there is no evidence AIG has donated money or has played any role in the campaign.  That's why the claim that AIG wants to take over Washington's workers compensation program is false.

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