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Gov't-Owned AIG: We're Still Lobbying!

Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesEarlier today, we wondered whether AIG is still lobbying the federal government. After all, taxpayers have lent the failing insurance giant roughly $120 billion and now own 80 percent of the company.

We spent days ringing AIG, the Fed and Department of Treasury, none of them could give us an answer.

Well, we finally have one. An AIG spokesman, Joseph Norton, told us via e-mail a few minutes ago: "We are not a GSE [government-sponsored entity] and are therefore not restricted. We remain a share-holder owned entity and continue advocacy activities."

In other words, AIG is going to keep lobbying. By contrast Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac immediately shut down their lobbying after the government took them over.

AIG and its subsidiaries have long been major players in Washington. In the first two quarters of this year, it spent $6.7 million on lobbying. In 2007, it spent $11 million. Overall, that's about 80 percent of what powerhouse lobbyistsFannie and Freddie spent combined.

AIG's decision doesn't sit well with government watchdogs.

"That's an absurd and unacceptable response," Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 told us. "Government officials should move immediately to correct this situation. The government now owns AIG. And the government should not be retaining private lobbyists and lobbying firms to lobby itself."

Wertheimer added, "It sounds like AIG officials don't seem to understand that the United States government owns them now, and they are not freewheeling independent operators in the private sector as they used to be."

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