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Shareholders vote down dark money disclosure at Aetna, Anthem

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Health insurers Aetna and Anthem won't have to tell shareholders how much money they send to tax-exempt political organizations, at least for another year.

Shareholder resolutions that would've required Aetna Inc. and Anthem Inc. to disclose how much they spend on 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organizations and other business association groups failed to gain approval last week at the companies' respective annual shareholders meetings. Approximately 91% of Anthem investors rejected the proposal, and 75% of the votes were cast against Aetna's resolution.

Last year, 71% of Aetna's shareholders rejected the same measure.

Political not-for-profit organizations, also called dark money groups, do not have to reveal their donors, and they can receive unlimited amounts of money, much of which is routed toward influencing elections.

Aetna has faced several shareholder votes over dark money after it was discovered the Hartford, Connecticut-based insurer gave money to the influential conservative American Action Network in 2012.

The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility sponsored Anthem's resolution. New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli led the charge for Aetna's. It's unclear if they will revive the proposals at next year's meetings.

Tom McCaney, associate director of corporate social responsibility with the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, said the 9% approval for Anthem's political spending measure “is not exactly a good vote, but it's enough that we can and will bring it back to the company next year.”

The most pressing business challenges for each insurer are their pending transactions. Aetna is attempting to buy Humana Inc., and Anthem is acquiring Cigna Corp., although both deals have faced setbacks.