CLIMATE:

Republican complaint drives AIG out of U.S. CAP

Insurance giant American International Group Inc. has fled a high-profile coalition of businesses and environmental groups promoting global warming legislation after a top House Republican complained that the company should not lobby the government since it has received a federal bailout.

AIG gave written notice yesterday to Rep. Joe Barton of Texas that it is withdrawing from the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, or U.S. CAP. Barton, the ranking Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, raised questions during a hearing last month about AIG lobbying, given the Bush administration's decision last fall to give the company an $85 billion rescue package.

"AIG will not participate in any way with respect to USCAP going forward," Anastasia Kelly, AIG's vice chairwoman, wrote to Barton in an e-mail. "If and when AIG revisits that decision at some point in the future, we will undertake to provide you with advance notice."

U.S. CAP first emerged two years ago on the eve of then-President George W. Bush's January 2007 State of the Union address and as Democratic lawmakers promised action on climate legislation as they assumed control of both the House and Senate. Key lawmakers such as then-Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) and Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) credited the business-nongovernmental organization coalition as a reason for their interest in writing cap-and-trade legislation.

Barton went public last month with his complaints about AIG on the same day that U.S. CAP leaders were releasing a detailed blueprint for congressional action on a cap-and-trade bill this session.

At a press conference and then in a hearing before Barton's committee, U.S. CAP officials insisted that movement on a climate bill would help stimulate the economy while staving off the negative consequences from climate change. Barton, an outspoken skeptic on the science linking man-made emissions to global warming, announced at the hearing that he was sending a letter to the Treasury Department taking issue with AIG's lobbying status (Greenwire, Jan. 15).

"My concern relates to AIG's continued association with implicit and explicit lobbying activity and whether this relationship is appropriate under existing statutes and agreements, or as a matter of public policy," Barton wrote to then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

A House Republican aide said today that Treasury has not responded to Barton's letter, which was sent in the final days of the Bush administration.

With AIG's departure, U.S. CAP includes 25 corporations and five nonprofit environmental and conservation organizations, including Alcoa, Caterpillar Inc., Dow Chemical Co., Duke Energy Co., the Environmental Defense Fund, Ford Motor Co., General Electric Co., General Motors Corp., the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, PepsiCo, Rio Tinto, Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Xerox Corp.

The National Wildlife Federation also dropped out of U.S. CAP last month, saying the coalition did not support aggressive enough emission reduction targets.

In a prepared statement, AIG spokesman Peter Tulupman said, "This decision does not reflect any change in AIG's views on the mission of USCAP. However, we have concluded that participation in USCAP is not consistent with the spirit of AIG's decision to suspend federal lobbying activity."

Barton welcomed the insurance company's decision. "It is entirely appropriate for AIG to withdraw from USCAP," the congressman said. "American taxpayers now own 80 percent of AIG, and I think it's pretty fundamental that taxpayers should not be funding its lobbying efforts to make cap and trade a reality."

Click here to read Barton's letter.