GE, NBC, and Obama: Conflicts of Interest?

Last Updated Sep 10, 2009 8:51 PM EDT

It's no secret that GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt is on President Barack Obama's economic advisory board. And that GE is the parent company of NBC Universal. It's also well known that NBC News is in bed with President Obama, who even joked about it at a recent media event:
"A few nights ago, I was up tossing and turning trying to figure exactly what to say. Finally, when I couldn't get back to sleep, I rolled over and asked (NBC News anchor) Brian Williams what he thought," Obama said.
But does that constitute a conflict of interest for either GE or President Obama?

How about the fact that GE Capital received a federal loan guarantee of $139 billion via the Wall Street bailout?

Or that Immelt is a member of the board of the New York Federal Reserve, formerly headed by Obama's treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner?

Or, and this is the big ticket item, that GE stands to make billions off the Obama administration's Cap and Trade and Alternative Energy initiatives?
From the Washington Examiner's Obama's hidden bailout of General Electric:

While many companies hire lobbyists to win earmarks, General Electric's unmatched lobbying force has secured a tax increase -- or its equivalent -- in President Barack Obama's budget.

Labeled "climate revenues" and totaling $646 billion over eight years, this line item in Obama's budget has inspired confidence in GE Chief Executive Officer Jeff Immelt.

How can Obama generate "climate revenues"? By forcing companies to pay for the right to emit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. In short, cap and trade requires businesses to spend "credits" to pay for their emissions.

GE has started a joint venture called Greenhouse Gas Services, which invests in -- and hopes to manage the trade in -- greenhouse gas credits. But these investments and this trading floor are of basically no use and nearly no value without government restrictions on greenhouse gases.

GE'S Immelt told shareholders that current events present an "opportunity of a lifetime," because "capitalism will be 'reset.' " Immelt wrote: "The interaction between government and business will change forever. In a reset economy, the government will be a regulator; and also an industry policy champion, a financier, and a key partner."

In short, GE plans to get rich by being one of the government's closest partners.

Immelt's own comments are by no means hyperbole; the scheme is brilliant. GE is one of America's largest corporations. And GE's Energy Infrastructure, Technology Infrastructure, and Capital Finance business segments - which in total comprise about 75 percent of the company's revenues - will each benefit greatly from the Obama administration's policies.

Now, does that constitute a conflict of interest for GE or for President Obama? I mean, how much is the unwavering support of one of America's major news networks worth to the president of the United States? And how much is it worth to GE to give that support? I'm just asking.

[Image of President Obama and GE's Jeffrey Immelt Courtesy AP/Charles Dharapak]