Top corporations spent millions on politics to save billions in taxes

Five top U.S. corporations racked up millions in profits last year and paid no federal taxes. They spent money instead on political campaigns and it was money well spent. Over the last decade, Bank of America, Boeing, Chevron, ExxonMobil and General Electric handed out $78.7 million to state political campaigns and $45.3 million to federal campaigns, according to a report released Wednesday by the National Institute for Money in State Politics. In return, the corporations in 2009 won $3.7 billion in tax breaks overall and paid $0 in federal taxes. They enjoyed a combined profit of $77.16 billion in 2010.

Any Americans who paid taxes last year– employed, semi-employed, unemployed, between gigs, recession-rattled Republicans, Democrats or independents– any American who paid taxes last year paid more than did all of the five corporations in the study, combined.

It will come as little surprise to residents of Colorado that, when it came to spending on ballot measures, the corporations unloaded 90 percent of their cash here and in California.

In 2008, ExxonMobil and Chevron gave a total of $2.4 million to a political committee called “Coloradans For a Stable Economy,” which was organized to defeat Amendment 58. The amendment sought to hike the amount of state severance taxes paid on oil and gas extracted in the state and, with the help of the generous giving of the corporations who would have had to pay the severance taxes, it failed.

In state races, the corporations gave nearly double the amount of cash to Republican candidates and causes than they did to Democratic candidates and causes. Most of all, however, they gave to incumbent candidates. Overwhelmingly, the corporate cash was well placed because, remarkably, in four out of five cases, it backed a winner.

From the report:

+ $17 million went to Republican candidates and party committees; $9.7 million went to Democrats.
+ 85 percent ($15.2 million) of the $17.9 million given to candidates went to incumbents.
+ More than three out of every four dollars given to candidates went to winners.
+ $2.4 million was given to candidates not up for reelection in the election during which the money was given.

Most all of the five corporations spent greater sums in Washington than in the states, seeking to influence federal laws. Chevron was the exception. The company gave $5 million to federal campaigns and $55 million to state candidates and causes.

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