The U.S. Chamber Fights to Protect its Richest Corporate CEOs’ Wallets

*Updated with 2010 data*

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On behalf of corporate CEOs, who would personally gain hundreds of thousands - even millions - of dollars, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been lobbying heavily for a permanent extension of the Bush Tax Cuts for the wealthy.  The CEOs for whom the U.S. Chamber is lobbying include some of the wealthiest executives in the nation, who make tens of millions of dollars in annual income: bankers like Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan (average income: $21,991,394), Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs (average income: $31,949,089), and John Stangfeld of Prudential Financial (average income: $16,375,447); coal mining executives like Massey Energy’s Don Blankenship (average income: $12,739,276); and insurance company CEOs like Ronald Williams of UnitedHealth and Angela Braley of Wellpoint (average income: $16,196,989 and $12,204,978, respectively).[1]  CEOs of Exxon, Boeing, United Technologies, General Electric, and others also benefitted handsomely from the Bush tax cuts while thier corporations wreaked havoc on mainstream America.  Each of these CEOs stood to personally gain anywhere from $760,000 to $4.1 million, in 2010, as a result of the Bush Tax Cuts' extension.

Unsurprisingly, the U.S. Chamber does not highlight the personal benefits the Bush tax cuts provide for these millionaire executives, but as demonstrated in press reports and in the U.S. Chamber’s own tax filings, these are the CEOs who fund and determine the U.S. Chamber’s agenda.[2]  And the Chamber is spearheading this CEO-driven effort despite clear evidence that the tax cuts would actually hurt the American business community it claims to represent: the cuts would add hundreds of billions to the deficit and limit the effectiveness of on-going efforts to revive the American economy and create jobs.  

The U.S. Chamber has apparently chosen to ignore the destructive impact the extension is having on the middle class and rebuilding the economy as a whole.  Equally troubling, the U.S. Chamber has even opposed tax reforms that actually would benefit mainstream American businesses and incentivize creation of American jobs. For example, the Chamber opposed a payroll tax holiday for companies that brought jobs back to the United States from overseas, arguing that Congress must focus on the “big picture:” “all 2001 and 2003 expiring tax provisions.”[4]   But in fighting for an extension of the Bush tax cuts, the U.S. Chamber is doing nothing more than ensuring a personal perk for the people that pay its bills.

Research on U.S. Chamber CEOs’ compensation by U.S. Chamber Watch and tax analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice[5] illustrates just how much benefit these CEOs gained from an extension of the Bush Tax Cuts.

Key Findings:

Rupert Murdoch, News Corp, $1.2M Bush Tax Cut
Rupert Murdoch, the CEO of News Corporation, whose donation of $1 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce led to well-publicized shareholder outrage, would pocket more than $1.2 million. *


Don Blankenship, Massey Energy, $4.1M Bush Tax Cut
Don Blankenship, a former U.S. Chamber Board member and the CEO of Massey Energy, whose company owned the mine in which twenty-nine miners died in April 2010’s mining disaster, the worst in forty years, resigned in 2010 with an egregarious "golden parachute" of $86 million.  The Bush tax cuts net him a bonus $4.1 million to take home. *

David Cote, Honeywell, $1M Bush Tax Cut
David Cote, the CEO of Honeywell and a member of the National Fiscal Commission, who keynoted an address to the National Chamber Foundation expressing concern about the national debt over the next ten years, would get a tax cut of over $1 million.*

Wall St. CEOs, $700K-$1.6M Bush Tax Cut
CEOs of big banks on Wall Street, who helped collapse the economy and then used the U.S. Chamber to fight stronger financial regulations, stand to reap between $700,000 and $1.6 million each.**

Angela Braley, Wellpoint, $763,000 Bush Tax Cut
The insurance mammoth Wellpoint has seen its own share of negative press over the past few years.  In 2009, it joined other health insurers to funnel millions through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to combat health care reform – even while publicly voicing support for the President’s reform agenda. Then in April 2010, Wellpoint came under heavy scrutiny when it was revealed that it systematically dropped coverage for breast cancer patients. Not content to drop costly patients, Wellpoint raised premiums on its insureds – by almost thirty‐nine percent – even as it stood to gain record profits in 2010. And CEO Angela Braley‘s salary increased from 2008 levels by fifty‐one percent to more than $13 million in 2009 and 2010 – taking home an extra $763,000 in 2010 courtesy of the Bush tax cuts.

Tom Donohue, U.S. Chamber, $200K+ Bush Tax Cut
U.S. Chamber President and CEO, Thomas Donohue, who has shifted the Chamber’s mission from serving mainstream business to serving the interests of the CEOs whose corporations write the biggest checks, will personally gain over $200,000.**

James McNerney Jr., Boeing, $1M Bush Tax Cut
Boeing CEO W. James McNerney Jr. is in good company with the heads of other huge defense contracting firms.   While Boeing was and is taking drastic steps to avoid giving workers a say in their employment, McNerney, Jr. took home $19 million in compensation in 2010, with his take‐home pay increased by about a million dollars, courtesy of the extended Bush Tax Cuts.*

Louis Chenenvert, United Technologies, $1.8M Bush Tax Cut
United Technologies, another of the country’s largest defense contractors, laid off more than 13,000 workers since 2008 because the “economic recovery previously anticipated…now appears unlikely.” But the downturn didn’t seem to affect United Technologies CEO Louis Chenenvert, who added $1.8 million in Bush money based on his $22 million 2010 income.*

Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs, $800,000 Bush Tax Cut
Leading up to the 2008 housing bubble collapse, Goldman Sachs achieved notoriety by betting against the very mortgage‐backed securities it was advising clients to buy; when the economy collapsed because those securities ended up being bad risks, Goldman made billions and was one of the few big banks left standing – its survival due in large part to the largesse of taxpayers through the TARP and other federal props. Since then, it has used the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to lobby against all manner of financial reform and regulation, hoping to keep the banking world free from regulation that would make it more difficult to engage in the ethically dubious actions it took – at its clients’ expense – leading up to the financial crisis.  With the help of the Chamber, in 2010 alone, Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein took home an extra $800,000 as a result of the tax cuts.*

Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan, $1.16M Bush Tax Cut
JP Morgan contributed its share to the market decline in 2008 as well, and though it received a large chunk of the $700 billion bank bailout, it still projected 14,000 layoffs in March of 2009. While some workers were being told to head home, Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan’s CEO, was still raking in the cash. After spending $9.3 million on bonuses for its remaining employees at the end of 2009, Dimon was rewarded with compensation totaling almost $22 million – with his take home pay including an extra $1.16 million in Bush tax cut dollars.*

Rex Tillerson, Exxon Mobil, $1,454,000 Bush Tax Cut
For years, the Texas‐based oil giant Exxon Mobil evoked the catastrophic 1989 oil spill bearing its name off the coast of Alaska.  By 2006, Exxon was still shirking responsibility for the spill, when federal and state governments demanded Exxon pay $92 million in reparations.  When neither the Bush nor Palin’s Alaskan administration took any action to collect, Exxon simply didn’t pay. In 2008, Exxon exposed employees at its Louisana oil refinery to life-threatening conditions during Hurricane Gustave while making a record $45.2 billion in profit that year. And in 2009, incredibly, the oil giant paid no income taxes to the U.S.  Instead, the company used (legal) tax shelters in the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands and invested tens of billions in earnings overseas. While Exxon Mobil was avoiding its responsibility to the U.S., its CEO, Rex Tillerson, was bringing home an extra $1,454,000 in Bush tax cut dollars based on his nearly $29 million 2010 compensation.* 

Jeffery Immelt, GE, $1,149,000M Bush Tax Cut
General Electric, the mega‐corporation that creates everything from Air Force jets to microwave ovens and television entertainment, paid its its CEO Jeffery Immelt $21,468,765 in 2010.  American taxpayers paid him $1,149,000 as a Bush tax cut bonus.  Immelt’s generous compensation came even after GE agreed to pay a $50 million fine for accounting errors that made profits look better than they were in 2009. Further, Immelt’s lighter tax burden corresponded with that of the company he heads; in 2009 and 2010, GE also paid no income tax to the U.S.  Forbes called GE’s lack of U.S. taxes the “most egregious” out of a list of companies (including Exxon) that did not pay U.S. taxes.*

*Based on 2010 compensation
**Based on average compensation, '07-'09 

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[2] “Insurers Gave U.S. Chamber $86 Million Used to Oppose Obama's Health Law,” Bloomberg, 11/17/10; “Top Corporations Aid U.S. Chamber of Commerce Campaign,” New York Times, 10/21/10.

[3] Citizens for Tax Justice, “Comparing President Obama's Tax Plan and Senate Republicans' Tax Plan,” September 17, 2010 (avail at: link).

[4] “Letter Urging the Senate to Oppose Consideration of S. 3816, the ‘Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act,’” U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 9/23/10

Photo Credits: All photos are official photos from the CEOs' respective company websites except for the following: 

Just In

Whose opportunity does U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue talk about when he talks about opportunity?

The Chamber’s policies might give the largest corporations the opportunity to grow, but that is often not the same thing as growth and opportunity for the American people. After-tax corporate profits in the third quarter topped 11 percent of GDP for the first time since the records started in 1947. But everyday Americans aren’t doing so well, with real median household income declining 4.4 percent since 2009.

When the Chamber opposes increasing minimum wages to coincide with growth in productivity and the economy overall, one must ask whose growth and opportunity the Chamber is pushing for.