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Celeste Meiffren,
Illinois PIRG

Thirty Fortune 500 Companies Paid More to Lobby Congress Than Taxes

Four of the thirty are headquartered in Illinois
For Immediate Release

Chicago – With the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case approaching – which opened the floodgates to corporate spending on elections – Illinois PIRG and Citizens for Tax Justice reveal thirty corporations that spent more to lobby Congress than they did in taxes.

The analysis, Representation without Taxation: Fortune 500 Companies that Spend Big on Lobbying and Avoid Taxes takes a close look at one area where corporate power and influence is on full display: corporate tax policy. By exploiting loopholes and special provisions in the tax code, 280 consistently profitable Fortune 500 companies paid about half the statutory corporate tax rate while spending $2 billion to lobby Congress on tax policy and other issues from 2008-2010.

“The fact that so many corporations can spend more money lobbying than they pay in taxes makes a mockery of our tax code and our democracy,” said Kevin O’Connor, campaign coordinator with Illinois PIRG.

The “Dirty Thirty” are particularly aggressive tax avoiders that spent more on federal lobbying than income taxes between 2008 and 2010. Twenty-nine of these corporations actually received a net tax rebate during the three year period of the study, and four of them are headquartered right here in Illinois.

Boeing, Integrys Energy Group, Baxter International, Navistar International and the rest of the companies in the ‘Dirty Thirty’ all told made $163.7 billion in profits while paying zero dollars in federal income taxes and collected a total of $10.6 billion in various tax rebates. Meanwhile, they collectively spent $475.7 million in lobbying expenses for the three year period.

“If we are to believe that corporations are people, shouldn’t they pay taxes just like the rest of us?” asked Rey Lopez-Calderon, Executive Director of Common Cause Illinois. “It’s a sad day in America when our government gives corporations carte blanche to purchase our elections and elected officials while shielding them from any sort of ‘personal’ responsibility.”

“When corporations don’t pay, the rest of us are forced to shoulder the extra burden through higher taxes, fewer services, or a larger share of the debt,” said O’Connor. “With our country facing tough budget choices, and funding for public priorities like Pell Grants and public transportation on the chopping block, it is all the more outrageous that corporations are able to shirk their tax burden by gaming the system.”

The report also takes a deeper look at one of the most egregious ways corporations skirt taxes – by shifting profits legitimately earned in America to offshore tax havens, where they are subject to little, if any taxes. At least 22 of the thirty companies studied had subsidiaries in tax haven countries.

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