Durbin, Kirk Join Nation's AIG Bashing

They're incredulous, but can they do anyting about it?

There's nothing short of national outrage at the fact that the American International Group is paying the executives who ran the insurance giant into the ground millions of dollars in special bonuses.

"It's hard to understand how derivative traders at AIG warranted any bonuses, much less $165 million in extra pay," President Obama said Monday.

Illinois' senior Sen. Dick Durbin told reporters that he was trying to contain his rage over the bonuses.

"I've had it," he said at an unrelated news conference Monday morning. "The fact that they continue to do it while we pour in billions of dollars is undefensible."

Durbin recognized that Congress hasn't done a good enough job of controlling bail-out money if AIG can "still pull this off."

Equally angered by the announcement of bonuses is Illinois Congressman Mark Kirk.

Stating the obvious, Kirk said, "AIG should not be on welfare from Uncle Sam, and yet paying bonuses and transferring a considerable amount of taxpayer funds to entities overseas."

Kirk says that he thinks Congress has "tremendous leverage" in the situation and that a refusal to provide any further funding to AIG without an agreement that the bonuses will be withdrawn. 

Kirk said that that should be the message to any "entity" receiving government money.

"They should understand that there are several strings attached," he said, referring to those conditions as "common sense strings."

The $165 million was payable to executives by Sunday and was part of a larger total payout reportedly valued at $450 million. The company has benefited from more than $170 billion in a federal rescue.

AIG reported this month that it had lost $61.7 billion for the fourth quarter of last year, the largest corporate loss in history. The bulk of the payments at issue cover AIG Financial Products, the unit of the company that sold credit default swaps, the risky contracts that caused massive losses for the insurer.

Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, earlier Monday charged that the move to pay bonuses amounted to "rewarding incompetence."

"These people may have a right to their bonuses. They don't have a right to their jobs forever," said Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat.

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