Aetna Paid $7 Million In Contributions To Wingnut Groups For 'Education Purposes'

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What topics do you suppose they want them to teach? I'm guessing it's about the benefits of a for-profit, barely-regulated health insurance industry, but that's just a wild guess. I wonder how many cancer treatments they disallowed to pay for this?

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Insurance giant Aetna inadvertently disclosed more than $7 million in donations to conservative political groups in a regulatory filing made earlier this year, according to a Washington-based advocacy group.

Documents obtained and distributed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington show that Aetna made a $3 million donation to the American Action Network and a $4.05 million donation to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2011.

Aetna made the disclosure in a year-end regulatory filing with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, an organization that sets insurance industry standards and provides regulatory support.

A subsequent amended filing, made in June, does not list the donations. The authenticity of the documents was confirmed to CNNMoney by the NAIC.

Advocates of campaign finance reform say the disclosures, first reported by trade publication SNL Financial, are extremely unusual, and represent the first known major donations from a publicly traded company to political organizations that are not required to reveal the source of their funding.

American Action Network is organized as a 501(c)(4) group, and has deep roots in conservative circles. Former Sen. Norm Coleman, a Republican from Minnesota, is on the board of directors, as is former Rep. Vin Weber, a member of Mitt Romney's economic team.

The Chamber of Commerce is Washington's most powerful business lobby. While the organization does not endorse candidates for president, it is expected to spend tens of millions of dollars this election cycle to influence other races.

The regulatory filing puts the insurance company in the unusual position of having voluntarily disclosed donations to groups that are attractive for the very reason that they do not reveal the source of their donations.

"I think Aetna screwed up. I don't think they needed to disclose this," said Melanie Sloan, the executive director of CREW, an advocacy group that opposes corporate political spending.

Aetna (AET, Fortune 500) provided CNNMoney with a letter from CEO Mark Bertolini that acknowledged donations to the groups, but claimed the funds were meant for educational purposes.

"No funds were provided to these organizations for lobbying purposes; however, we have provided funds to these organizations for educational activities," Bertolini said.


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