Liberals want G.E. CEO Jeff Immelt out of Obama administration

In this Nov. 6, 2010 file photo, General Electric (GE) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Jeffrey R. Immelt listens to President Obama in Mumbai, India.
AP Photo

Former Sen. Russ Feingold and progressive group MoveOn today called on General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt to resign from the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness in the wake of a report that despite $14.2 billion in worldwide profits - including more than $5 billion from U.S. operations - GE did not owe taxes in 2010.

They also expressed anger over the fact that the company has cut its U.S. workforce by roughly one fifth since 2002.

"How can someone like Immelt be given the responsibility of heading a jobs creation task force when his company has been creating more jobs overseas while reducing its American workforce?" Feingold asked in an email to supporters, as The Hill reports. "And under Immelt's direction, GE spends hundreds of millions of dollars hiring lawyers and lobbyists to evade taxes."

MoveOn asked its members to sign a petition calling on Immelt to leave the administration, and Executive Director Justin Ruben called G.E.'s tax status "outrageous."

"At a time when many in Washington, including the President, are worried about our nation's deficit we should be punishing--not rewarding--companies like GE who are robbing the US Government and taxpayers of billions of dollars," he said in a statement. "This sort of bad corporate behavior should not be rewarded with a top White House appointment."

Asked if the White House associates itself with G.E.'s corporate stewardship Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said "membership on the Jobs Council, as the President made clear, is not decided by agreement on every issue." At his briefing yesterday, Carney said President Obama continues to have faith in Immelt to lead the council.

G.E. argues that its tax situation has been misrepresented because the New York Times, which broke the story, did not take into account the impact of its GE Capital losses in the financial crisis. G.E. said that if you exclude GE Capital its tax rate has been about 21 percent, which is still less than the U.S. corporate tax rate of 35 percent. 

Mr. Obama has railed against just the sort of tax loophole exploitation of which G.E. is accused.

"Over the years, a parade of lobbyists has rigged the tax code to benefit particular companies and industries," he said in his State of the Union address in January. "Those with accountants or lawyers to work the system can end up paying no taxes at all."

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