WSJ’s Good Nuts-and-Bolts Reporting

The Journal, slogging through disclosure filings, writes today that AIG lobbied Congress nearly twice as much on taxes as it did on the insurance business over the last three years.

This is the kind of boring story that most readers skip over, but whose real importance may only become apparent down the road—part of the nitty-gritty public-service function of the press. This kind of stuff gives us a peek at what companies are really interested in.

Among the issues Angus & Nickerson handled for AIG, according to 2007 and 2008 Senate records, was legislation affecting the “economic substance doctrine,” which prohibits taxpayers from entering into transactions that have little or no economic purpose beyond reducing their taxes.

And, of course, AIG has only the best lobbyists fresh from the revolving door:

From 2006 to 2008, AIG paid tax-lobbying specialists at consulting firm Angus & Nickerson LLC a total of $420,000, according to Senate records. The Washington firm is headed by Barbara Angus, international tax counsel for the U.S. Department of Treasury’s tax-policy office from 2001 until 2005, and Gregory Nickerson, who was the tax counsel for the House Ways and Means Committee during the same period.

These folks have chits they can call on with their old pals. That’s how the sausage gets made, folks.

Good job by the Journal and reporter Tom McGinty.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.