Sarah Anderson of the Institute for Policy Studies, one of the report’s authors, said the groups hoped to shine the light on what she called “an important tax loophole that hasn’t gotten much attention.”
“They’re projecting an image of patriotism and shared sacrifice. But when you look at the specifics, it’s cuts to earned benefits and corporate tax cuts,” Anderson told The Hill.
According to the liberal groups’ study, UnitedHealth Group, Verizon, Honeywell, BlackRock and Marriott were among the corporations with the heftiest performance-based payouts between 2009 and 2011.
For instance, Stephen Helmsley of UnitedHealth received some $193 million in performance-related compensation during that time span, which the study says led to a tax break worth close to $68 million.
Jon Romano, a spokesman for Fix the Debt, responded to the study by saying that it's "really easy to sit on the sidelines and throw shots." But, Romano added, it would be more constructive for groups like IPS to join with those trying to reach a broad deal.
"Every one of our business leaders, CEOs and small business owners have all said that everything has to be on the table," Romano told The Hill. "This is not about protecting any special interest. This is about protecting the interests of the American people."
The debt group – which was co-founded by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the chairmen of President Obama’s fiscal commission – pushed hard for a so-called “grand bargain” to be the solution to the mix of spending cuts and tax increases that were looming at the end of last year.
Obama, in his most recent budget, also called for some changes to entitlements, including a new inflation measure that would mean lower benefits checks.
But House Republicans and Senate Democrats would have a difficult time reconciling their recently passed budget frameworks, and Bowles has said that the idea of a big deficit deal is “on life support.” Bowles and Simpson released their latest deficit reduction plan last month, to mixed reviews.
Even so, Anderson said groups like hers would continue to be vigilant about Fix the Debt.
“I just wouldn’t underestimate them,” Anderson said. “They’ve made it very clear that they’re in this for the long haul.”
—This post was updated at 1:06 p.m.