When you think about it, the connection is obvious, but I confess I was surprised by this new report by Tim Carney and Dick Patten on who's lobbying for the estate tax. The report was paid for by a small-business group that opposes the tax, and it outlines who's been opposing them behind the scenes. Answer: the life insurance industry. In the halls of Congress. With bushels of money.
- The life-insurance lobby spent $10 million a month lobbying in the first half of 2010. During this same period, only three industries - pharmaceuticals, electric utilities, and oil and gas - spent more over the same period.
- The leader of the life-insurance lobby, the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI), spent $2.32 million in lobbying in 2010's second quarter. Only 10 industries spent more.
- The life-insurance industry exercises bi-partisan influence on the estate tax issue. Through most of 2010, the two leading life-insurance lobbyists - and thus the two biggest advocates for the death tax - were a former Republican governor and the wife of a Democratic Senator.
- Former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, President of ACLI until just recently, supported estate tax repeal until taking his position at ACLI in 2003.
- Out-going Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) has been a consistent and vocal supporter of repeal. His wife, Kimberly Dorgan, is the second-in-command at ACLI and an active lobbyist in favor of keeping the estate tax.
- ACLI and other lobbying firms have funded and lobbied for "grassroots" front groups to paint a "spoiled rich kid" image for those who support repeal.
- Warren Buffet, a major estate tax advocate, makes substantial profits through Berkshire Hathaway's holdings in multiple life-insurance companies.
- While the majority of the life-insurance industry lobbies hard against repeal, the organization representing independent life-insurance agents actually favors repeal.