Report: Reclaiming Our DemocracyClose Corporate Tax Loopholes

Loopholes for Sale

Campaign Contributions by Corporate Tax Dodgers
Released by: U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Recent polls show a large majority of Americans, including small business owners, are convinced that profitable corporations are not paying enough in taxes. Citizens for Tax Justice and U.S. PIRG’s Loopholes for Sale pursues the intersection of corporate campaign contributions to members of Congress and the absence of Congressional action to close corporate tax loopholes and raise additional revenue from corporate taxes. The report includes the following findings:

280 profitable Fortune 500 companies collectively received $223 billion in tax breaks between 2008 and 2010 while contributing $216 million to Congressional candidates over the last four election cycles.

These 280 corporations that were profiled in CTJ’s November 2011 report on corporate tax avoidance are Fortune 500 companies that were consistently profitable during each of the three years between 2008 and 2010. They are revealed in this new report to have contributed over $216 million to Congressional candidates through their political action committees (PACs) during the current and the past three election cycles.

The thirty most aggressive tax dodging corporations—dubbed the “Dirty Thirty”— collectively paid a negative tax rate between 2008 and 2010 while spending $41 million on Congressional campaign contributions.

Loopholes for Sale finds that these thirty U.S. companies spent $41 million on campaign contributions through corporate PACs for Congressional races and made other indirect contributions in the 2006, 2008, 2010 and to date in 2012 election years (including candidates who have since retired or who did not win their election race).

The 30 that collectively had a negative tax rate made a total of $30.3 million in contributions to
members of Congress who are currently serving in office, nearly $58,000 per member on average. Of the 534 current members of Congress, 524 (98 percent) have taken a campaign contribution from one or more of these thirty corporations since 2006. The top five Congressional recipients of contributions since the 2006 election cycle from the 30 companies that collectively paid a negative tax rate were:

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) -

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) -

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) –

Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO and former House
Minority Whip) – $220,500.00

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (RKY)
- $177,001.00

The 30 companies that collectively paid no taxes from 2008-2010, over the current and past three
election cycles, contributed a total of $3.1 million to current members of the House Ways and Means Committee and $1.9 million to current members of the Senate Finance Committee.

Of the 61 individual members of the two above committees, only Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) did not take a contribution from any one of these 30 tax-dodging companies. Members of the House Ways and Means Committee received an average of $84,859 from these same thirty corporations, which is 66 percent more than the average $51,209 that other members of the House received from these companies.

Members of the Senate Finance Committee (excluding Senator Cantwell) received an average contribution of $83,209 from the thirty companies, which is 28 percent more than the average $65,206 that Senators who are not on the Finance Committee received.

Of the thirty companies that collectively paid no taxes, only PG&E has so far made a contribution directly to a super PAC from its treasury.

U.S. PIRG and CTJ conclude with recommendations to achieve the following:

Require full and honest disclosure: In the post- Citizens United world, we need new rules to require full and honest disclosure so citizens know who is backing the candidates they are being asked to support.

Achieve political equality in elections: Changing the campaign finance system that inherently favors moneyed interests by allowing corporations and individuals to directly translate their financial success into political power is key to restoring democracy and achieving lasting reforms.

Close the most egregious corporate tax loopholes, beginning with deferral, which allows corporations to defer paying taxes on offshore profits sometimes indefinitely, at great cost to the Treasury and other taxpayers.

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