On Brink of Collapse, AIG Lobbied for India Nuke Deal (Really!)

As AIG was on the brink of bankruptcy and facing a government takeover, the insurance giant made sure Congress knew where it stood—on U.S.-India nuclear relations, that is.

AIG deployed its lobbyists to Washington last month to influence a bill that allows U.S. companies to sell nuclear technology to India. Signed by President Bush earlier this month, the bill overturns a 30-year-old ban on such sales imposed after India first developed a nuclear bomb. (Critics complain that the U.S.-India deal undermines non-proliferation efforts.)  

Why would AIG care about a U.S.-India nuclear pact at a time when its own existence was uncertain?

“We were looking at this to see if there’s a potential business aspect” for AIG, company spokesman Nick Ashooh said. “We do a lot of business in India.” Ashooh said he was “not sure” if that business included insuring contracts between U.S. military technology companies and their Indian counterparts.

Leading up to and following the government’s bailout of AIG last month, the company’s lobbyists kept busy. (AIG “suspended” its lobbying this week after coming under fire from senators.) Between July and September, the company spent more than $2 million to lobby Congress, the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and the White House, records show. (Between April and June, it spent more than $3 million). Apart from its own in-house lobbyists, AIG employed five lobbying firms and 20 lobbyists to influence 20 bills and several other policy matters.

The lobbying forms don’t break down spending by specific legislation. But the U.S.-India deal was a natural to devote generous lobbying to. It “opens the floodgates for nuclear trade,” said Leonard Weiss, of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. “Billions of dollars in military technology agreements are going to be made as a result of this deal.”

India wasn’t the only  country on AIG’s mind. The company, which has operations in more than 130 countries and jurisdictions, also weighed in about a Korean free trade agreement and proposed U.S. sanctions on Russia for invading Georgia.

“We looked at the sanctions being imposed to see if it would have an impact on the business climate,” Ashooh said.

ProPublica reported earlier this month that AIG was still lobbying even after the federal government gave the company $120 billion in bailout loans. The new lobbying records show that, as the Wall Street Journal first reported, AIG had been pushing to roll back a new oversight law for the mortgage industry.  

AIG, now 80 percent owned by taxpayers, also lobbied for government sponsored entity reform and “financial regulatory reform.”

AIG's 3rd-Quarter Lobbying Activity (pdfs)

AIG's Internal Lobbying Unit ($1,840,000)
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld ($20,000)
Angus & Nickerson, LLC ($40,000)
DC Navigators, LLC ($60,000)
Ogilvy Government Relations ($50,000)
The Nickles Group, LLC ($60,000)

© Copyright 2008 Pro Publica Inc. The original content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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