INSURERS SPENT HEAVILY TO KILL HEALTH CARE REFORM…. I know there are some critics of the Affordable Care Act on the left who considered the entire reform initiative a “giveaway” to insurance companies.

But private insurers really didn’t see it that way.

Health insurers last year gave the U.S. Chamber of Commerce $86.2 million that was used to oppose the health-care overhaul law, according to tax records and people familiar with the donation.

The insurance lobby, whose members include Minnetonka, Minnesota-based UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Philadelphia-based Cigna Corp., gave the money to the Chamber in 2009 as Democrats were increasing their criticism of the industry, according to one person who requested anonymity because laws don’t require identifying funding sources. The Chamber of Commerce received the money from the Washington-based America’s Health Insurance Plans when the industry was urging Congress to drop a plan to create a competing public insurance option.

The spending exceeded the insurer group’s entire budget from a year earlier and accounted for 40 percent of the Chamber’s $214.6 million in 2009 spending.

According to a Chamber of Commerce spokesperson, the business lobby used the insurance industry’s $86.2 million to pay for “advertisements, polling and grass roots events to drum up opposition to the bill.”

Keep in mind, this only covers anti-reform spending in 2009 — the crusade to kill the initiative grew even more intense earlier this year, in the months leading up to March passage, though those spending figures are not yet available.

What’s more, the $86.2 million from insurance companies only reflects the money the industry quietly gave to the Chamber, all while saying publicly that insurers would play a constructive role.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.