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Meme Politicizes Progressive Insurance


Quick Take

An outdated meme circulating on Facebook claims that Progressive, the insurance company, “is owned by Peter Lewis who donates millions” to the Democratic Party and left-leaning organizations. But Lewis died in 2013.


Full Story

A meme politicizing an insurance company has been circulating widely on Facebook recently, but the claims it makes are outdated.

The meme says: “Are you aware that Progressive Insurance is owned by Peter Lewis who donates millions to the ACLU, the Democratic Party, MoveOn.org and is close friends with leftist George Soros? Maybe it’s time to choose a different Insurance Company if you can!”

We take no position on the merits of Progressive, but those deciding which insurance company to use should know the facts. And, the fact is, Peter Lewis has been dead since 2013.

He stepped down as CEO of Progressive at the end of 1999, after 34 years. While he was alive, Lewis donated to certain liberal causes and organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union (which he gave $7 million in 2001 and $8 million in 2003) and MoveOn.Org (which he gave $2.5 million from November 2003 to March 2004). He also donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democrats over the years, according to records from the Federal Election Commission.

Lewis was succeeded as CEO by Glenn Renwick, who took over on Jan. 1, 2000, and has a much more limited history of political donations, according to FEC records. Renwick gave $500 to support former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1999, and he gave $600 to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America Political Action Committee in 2003.

Renwick retired in 2016 and was replaced by Tricia Griffith, who has no record of making political contributions, according to the FEC.

As for the company’s own political spending, Progressive said this in its most recent Report on Involvement in Public Policy:

Progressive, 2018: Progressive and its subsidiaries and other affiliates support industry trade associations, non-profit organizations, research associations, candidates for public office and other groups to advance key priorities such as highway safety and regulatory modernization. We may not agree with every position taken by a specific organization, candidate or committee. However, sometimes we find it is beneficial to work across such differences on behalf of the interests of our stakeholders. In addition, we engage lobbying firms that can advocate for our business interests.

According to the company’s reports for 2017 and 2018, it spent less than $151,000 on political contributions during the 2018 election cycle. The reports don’t give specific figures for its political contributions. Rather, they say in those two years the company spent 1% in 2017 or “less than 1%” in 2018 of a combined $15.1 million on “other matters, including political contributions” to candidates and political parties.

For that election cycle, OpenSecrets.org reported that Progressive employees gave $28,613 to Democrats and $4,065 to Republicans. It hasn’t always been the case that the company’s employees donate more to Democratic candidates, though. Of the five completed election cycles since 2010, individuals who list Progressive as their employer gave more to Democrats in three of them and more to Republicans in two of them, according to OpenSecrets.org.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.

Sources

Litt, Steven. “Insurance executive Peter B. Lewis dies at age 80.” The Plain Dealer. 23 Nov 2013.

2018 Report on Involvement in Public Policy. Progressive.com. Accessed 12 Dec 2019.

2017 Report on Involvement in Public Policy. Progressive.com. Accessed 16 Dec 2019.

Progressive Insurance — total contributions. OpenSecrets.org. Accessed 12 Dec 2019.