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The New Yorker reports the results of an Annenberg survey of 673 mainstream news owners, executives, editors, producers, and reporters. Among the survey’s findings is the strong belief that Fox News (see 1995, October 7, 1996, and October 13, 2009)) has had a strong influence on the way broadcasters cover the news, as well as how others present the news on network and cable television programs. In 2002, when the CEO of General Electric, Jeffrey Immelt, was asked how he wanted to improve his own cable news network, MSNBC, he said: “I think the standard right now is Fox. And I want to be as interesting and as edgy as you guys are.” (Auletta 5/26/2003; Jamieson and Cappella 2008, pp. 52)
CNN reports that despite US government prohibitions (see March 15, 1995 and May 6, 1995) banning US citizens and business from doing business with Iran, dozens of US companies are actively conducting business there, including Halliburton, ConocoPhillips and General Electric. The companies are using a complicated array of corporate loop-holes and off-shore accounts to maneuver around US laws. Michael Ledeen, interviewed by CNN, says these companies are aiding terrorism. “The oil companies are a wholly owned subsidiary of the government… the government is the primary sponsor of terrorism,” he says, additionally claiming that “they have separate organizations that are used to funnel oil profits and other profits into the terror network.” (CNN 2/10/2003; CNN 5/29/2003)
General Electric does about $270 million in business in Iran through one of its foreign subsidiaries. The company has sold Iran hydroelectric equipment, medical equipment, and oil and gas equipment. Under current US law, companies are barred from doing business with nations that the US State Department has said are sponsors of terrorism. However the law does not prohibit a company’s foreign subsidiaries from engaging in such business. (Christoffersen 2/2/2005)
General Electric (GE) follows Halliburton and ConocoPhillips, announcing that the company will no longer accept business from Iran (see May 29, 2003). “Because of uncertain conditions related to Iran, including concerns about meeting future customer commitments, we will not accept any new orders for business in Iran effective Feb. 1,” explains Gary Sheffer, a GE spokesman. “This moratorium on new orders will be re-evaluated as conditions relating to Iran change.” (Christoffersen 2/2/2005; Citrano 2/2/2005) Under current US law, companies are barred from doing business with nations that the US State Department has said are sponsors of terrorism. However the law does not prohibit a company’s foreign subsidiaries from engaging in such business. (BBC 7/20/2004; Christoffersen 2/2/2005)
Mark Ames and Yasha Levine, the reporters-turned-bloggers who recently caused a firestorm of controversy with their article on Playboy.com accusing CNBC commentator Rick Santelli of colluding with FreedomWorks and the Koch family in launching the anti-Obama “tea party” movement (see February 19, 2009 and February 27, 2009), discuss Playboy’s recent unexplained deletion of their article from its Web site. AlterNet editor Jan Frel writes that Playboy’s action was likely taken due to fear of libel suits. In an e-mail to Frel, Ames and Levine write: “There has been a lot of speculation as to why Playboy removed our original article from its site. Let us put it this way: When you look at the fallout from our article—FreedomWorks admits its role in the teaparty, Santelli issues a giant lawyer-penned opus about how he loves Obama (see March 2, 2009), and CNBC (whose parent company is the megaconglomerate General Electric) frightens a bunch of Astroturfing Web sites into dropping Santelli’s name and into revealing their own PAC sponsors (see March 2, 2009)—then it’s clear we hit the bull’s-eye and stirred up the wrath of a very scary monster. Given all of this, it would not be unreasonable for one to consider the possibility (as many have) that the multigazilliondollar megabeast GE threatened the much smaller independent media company Playboy with a terrifying and expensive lawsuit, which, given the current financial crisis, is not something anyone but another GE-sized megabeast could cope with. ‘Nuf said on that.” Frel notes that some of the critics of Ames and Levine have their own ties to the subjects of the controversy. Playboy has a film deal with NBC Universal, the parent company of CNBC. The New York Times, which has been critical of the story, has disclosed its content-sharing agreement with CNBC. And Atlantic Monthly blogger Megan McArdle, who has attacked the credibility of the story, has disclosed that she lives with a man who used to work for FreedomWorks and who has engaged in similar “astroturfing” incidents as the ones Ames and Levine reported on in their article (see March 2, 2009). (Frel 3/3/2009)
A list of 10 companies that have avoided paying US income taxes is provided by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who is pushing for legislation that will close the legal tax loopholes that allow large corporations to avoid the bulk of their tax responsibilities. Chicago Sun-Times reporter Lynn Sweet writes, “Some people call the income tax system with generous loopholes for big companies corporate welfare or corporate entitlements.” Sanders’s list, based on returns and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) documents filed in 2009 and earlier, includes:
ExxonMobil. The oil giant made $19 billion in profits in 2009, but paid no federal income taxes, and received a $156 million tax rebate.
Bank of America (BoA). The financial corporation made $4.4 billion in profits in 2009, and received nearly $1 trillion in Federal Reserve and Treasury Department “bailout” funds. The bank received a $1.9 billion tax refund.
General Electric. This multinational conglomerate made $26 billion in profits in the US, and over the last five years has received $4.1 billion in tax refunds.
Chevron. The oil giant made $10 billion in profits in 2009, and received a $19 million refund from the IRS.
Boeing. The defense contractor received a $30 billion contract from the US Department of Defense in 2009 to build 179 airborne tankers, and received a $124 million tax refund.
Valero Energy. This energy corporation, the 25th largest company in the US, garnered $68 billion in sales in 2009, and received $157 million in tax refunds. Over the last three years, Valero has received a $134 million tax break from the oil and gas manufacturing tax deduction.
Goldman Sachs. The financial giant paid only 1.1 percent of its income in taxes in 2008, though it recorded $2.3 billion in profits. It also received nearly $800 billion from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department.
Citigroup. The financial conglomerate made over $4 billion in profits in 2010, but paid no federal income taxes. It received a $2.5 trillion “bailout” from the Federal Reserve and Treasury.
ConocoPhillips. The oil conglomerate garnered $16 billion in profits from 2007 through 2009, paid no taxes, and received $451 million in tax breaks through the oil and gas manufacturing deduction.
Carnival Cruise Lines. This entertainment giant made over $11 billion in profits between 2006 and 2011, but paid only 1.1 percent of its income in taxes during that period.
In a press release calling for “shared sacrifice,” Sanders writes: “While hard working Americans fill out their income tax returns this tax season, General Electric and other giant profitable corporations are avoiding US taxes altogether.… [T]he wealthiest Americans and most profitable corporations must do their share to help bring down our record-breaking deficit.” Sanders writes that “it is grossly unfair for Congressional Republicans to propose major cuts to Head Start, Pell Grants, the Social Security Administration, nutrition grants for pregnant low-income women, and the Environmental Protection Agency while ignoring the reality that some of the most profitable corporations pay nothing or almost nothing in federal income taxes.” Sanders calls for closing corporate tax loopholes and eliminating the deductions for oil and gas companies. He is also introducing legislation that would impose a 5.4 percent surtax on millionaires that would garner as much as $50 billion a year in tax revenues. Sanders says: “We have a deficit problem. It has to be addressed, but it cannot be addressed on the backs of the sick, the elderly, the poor, young people, the most vulnerable in this country. The wealthiest people and the largest corporations in this country have got to contribute. We’ve got to talk about shared sacrifice.” (Sweet 3/27/2011)
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