Jeffrey Immelt, the head of GE, is facing backlash from left-leaning groups who say that he shouldn’t be on the White House Jobs Council or any other panel in light of reports that the company last year made $14.2 billion in profit, paid zero in corporate federal taxes and actually received a $3.2 billion tax benefit.
GE disputes that claim and says it did pay all kinds of taxes last year, though notably, not federal taxes. But it also claims that it didn’t pay because it took hits for investment and other spending that is exactly what the tax code allows and is encouraged to help job creation.
Whatever the case, the optics are bad news for GE, which is facing increasing anger from the likes of former Wisconsin Sen. Feingold, MoveOn and even Jon Stewart.
In January, Obama named Immelt to head his new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness as part of an effort to improve the White House's strained relationship with the business community. Now Obama's relationship with liberals is on the rocks.
MoveOn and Feingold are calling on Immelt to step down.
"It is outrageous that GE made more than $14 billion in profits last year and paid no federal taxes," MoveOn Executive Director Justin Ruben said in a statement. "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 U.S. government and taxpayers of billions of dollars."
The White House did not reply to an e-mail seeking a response, and a GE spokesman declined to comment.
In an e-mail to its 5 million members asking them to sign a petition, MoveOn accused GE of slashing health and retirement benefits for new nonunion employees and said the company is expected to push union members to accept similar cutbacks while Immelt gets a 100 percent raise.
MoveOn called Immelt's position on Obama's council "a slap in the face to every hardworking, taxpaying American – especially GE employees."
To hear MoveOn tell it, GE avoids paying taxes by shifting a large portion of its profits overseas, where the jobs follow.
"Now GE's CEO is the person charged with helping the president create jobs here in America. That's just perverse," the email reads.
MoveOn also said if the $3.2 billion in tax credits were returned to the government, "it would pay for the programs that House Republicans want to gut, like the community health centers providing care to over 3 million low-income people and food and health care assistance to pregnant women, new moms and children. We'd even have enough left to save the jobs of over 21,000 teachers across the country."
Feingold also called for Immelt to resign in a blog.
"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?" he wrote. "And under Immelt's direction, GE spends hundreds of millions of dollars hiring lawyers and lobbyists to evade taxes."