NEW YORK (TheStreet)-- "It's nice to be able to sit behind a desk, wear clean clothes, be clean cut, smell good and not get shot at. It's been a great experience here."
So says Chris Graffagnino, a U.S. soldier who was wounded on duty and now works as an intelligence analyst at AIG (AIG), in one of several weird YouTube videos aimed at restoring the image of the bailed-out insurance giant. One of my favorites has an uplifting jolt of Bruce Hornsby-style Muzak and a gray and a blue stick figure holding hands.
I think the taxpayers are the gray and AIG is the blue.
There's also an earnest video about all the pro-bono legal work AIG does, featuring AIG general counsel Tom Russo.In case Russo's name isn't familiar to you, he was chief legal officer at Lehman Brothers when it filed for bankruptcy protection around the same time AIG got its bailout. Now, the man who sat idle while Lehman shuffled debt off its balance sheet at the end of each quarter so no one would be able to find it in the company's financial statements is providing gratis corporate governance advice to the likes of Career Gear--a non-profit that provides "interview-appropriate clothing and follow-up retention services to men who are transitioning into the workforce," as Career Gear's PR chief puts it. This is heartwarming stuff, though it would be easier to swallow if AIG, which will report second quarter earnings on Friday, didn't still owe you and me some $36 billion, according to the bailout watchdog group known as SIGTARP . That might not sound too bad if you consider that the initial cost of the AIG bailout under was $182 billion, but it's still more than twice the size of California's budget shortfall. So it's hard not to wonder how much these videos cost, and how many California police and firefighters that money might employ. Especially since many of these videos have been viewed by fewer than 300 people. To AIG's credit, however, it doesn't attempt to whitewash history by gliding over the company's disastrous losses in 2008, as Citigroup (C) does in this ad. There's a lot to like about the turnaround of AIG under CEO Bob Benmosche, who took over leadership of the company in 2009. These ads, however, make you want to take back any bone of goodwill you were inclined to throw their way. -- Written by Dan Freed in New York. Follow this writer on Twitter.
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