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Left-leaning watchdog: Companies avoiding taxes spent millions on lobbying

Left-leaning watchdog: Companies avoiding taxes spent millions on lobbying
© Greg Nash

Fifty-five companies that didn’t pay any corporate income tax in 2020 shelled out $408 million on lobbying over the past six years, according to a new report from left-leaning watchdog group Public Citizen.

The report said corporations saved $12 billion in taxes through tax avoidance and rebates, far less than they spent on lobbying lawmakers and government officials. FedEx, Charter Communications, American Electric Power and Duke Energy were the top lobbying spenders among firms that effectively avoided federal taxes, according to Public Citizen.

“Duke Energy could use the $280 million rebate from the federal government to fund its lobbying spending for the next half-century,” said Public Citizen research director Mike Tanglis. “Using Uncle Sam’s money to lobby against paying taxes is the perfect embodiment of how Washington works.”

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Public Citizen’s report cites an analysis from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, which found that 55 U.S. companies paid no federal income tax on more than $40 billion in profits last year. Many of those companies lobbied for tax legislation signed into law by former President TrumpDonald TrumpGuardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa wins GOP primary in NYC mayor's race Garland dismisses broad review of politicization of DOJ under Trump Schumer vows next steps after 'ridiculous,' 'awful' GOP election bill filibuster MORE in 2017 that created new corporate tax breaks.

Citing data from OpenSecrets.org, the report also found the companies accounted for $42 million in federal campaign contributions since the 2016 election cycle. That figure includes employee and PAC donations. Twenty of the top 25 recipients of those donations were Republicans who backed the 2017 tax cuts.

Charter Communications told The Hill its 2020 tax burden was decreased due to deferments and investments in technology and infrastructure. Duke Energy and American Electric Power, both utilities, each said they used tax programs to invest in renewable energy, and that tax savings are passed on to their customers.

FedEx told The Hill it paid nearly $9 billion in federal, state and local taxes between 2016 and 2020.

President BidenJoe BidenBaltimore police chief calls for more 'boots on the ground' to handle crime wave Biden to deliver remarks at Sen. John Warner's funeral Garland dismisses broad review of politicization of DOJ under Trump MORE has proposed tax increases on corporations to pay for trillions in new infrastructure spending. Treasury Secretary Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenAs climate threats escalate, ESG needs an 'R' for resilience On The Money: Powell says pickup in job gains likely this fall | Schumer, Pelosi meeting with White House on infrastructure Powell says pickup in job gains likely this fall MORE is leading an international effort to implement a 15 percent global minimum tax on corporations. Those proposals are fiercely opposed by lobbying groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable.

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Congressional Democrats have jumped on the issue of tax avoidance after ProPublica reported this week that the nation’s wealthiest billionaires paid little to no federal income taxes in recent years.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Health Care: White House acknowledges it will fall short of July 4 vaccine goal | Fauci warns of 'localized surges' in areas with low vaccination rates | Senate Finance leader releases principles for lowering prescription drug prices Equilibrium — Presented by NextEra Energy — Flaming shipwreck wreaks havoc on annual sea turtle migration Senate Finance chair releases principles for lowering prescription drug prices MORE (D-Ore.) said at a hearing Tuesday that the ProPublica report found "the country's wealthiest, who profited immensely during the pandemic, have not been paying their fair share."

Updated at 5:14 p.m.