Bonus irony: The $70 million year-end dividend payment will be a windfall for other "higher taxes for thee, but not for me" Obama supporters, including donor Warren Buffett's firm Berkshire Hathaway. According to The Associated Press, "Berkshire is its largest shareholder, with an estimated 1.7 million shares, which means it could get a roughly $17 million dividend payment."
-- Costco. The mega-retailer's co-founder, Jim Sinegal, is a lifelong Democrat and top Obama fundraiser. He crusaded aggressively for Obamacare and sent out a campaign dispatch defending his candidate from criticism over his "you didn't build that remarks." But while Sinegal purported to speak for beleaguered small-business owners, his company was availing itself of rarified tax avoidance strategies. Like The Washington Post, the Costco board of directors voted to pay special $7 per share year-end dividends to avoid higher taxes. In addition, Costco will borrow $3.5 billion to finance the payout, according to The Wall Street Journal. Higher taxes, more debt. They built that.
-- Facebook. The social networking giant's founder, Mark Zuckerberg, told Obama in 2011 at a town hall forum that he was "cool" with paying higher taxes. But neither Zuckerberg nor his many Facebook execs are actually down with following through. Co-founder Eduardo Saverin renounced his American citizenship in a blindingly obvious bid to evade nearly $70 million in taxes. In addition, Zuckerberg and a half-dozen Facebook insiders are all skirting hefty estate and gift taxes on their family Facebook shares held in annuity trusts. According to Bloomberg News, the legal maneuver is called a "grantor-retained annuity trust, or GRAT," and the total Facebook tax avoidance sum adds up to at least $200 million. A "cool" $200 million, that is.
-- George Lucas. The billionaire Star Wars director called Obama a "hero" and parroted his candidate's capitalism-bashing rhetoric in a January 2012 interview with PBS dinosaur Charlie Rose. "I do not believe that the rich should be able to buy the government," Lucas lectured. He does, however, believe in shirking higher taxes the one-percenter way. In October, Lucas sold his film company to Disney for a whopping $4 billion in cash and stock to evade anticipated capital gains tax increases and Obamacare Medicare surtaxes on investment income.
-- Andre "Dr. Dre" Young. Forbes magazine named this California gangsta rapper-turned-music industry mogul the highest-paid musician in the world in 2012. He raked in an estimated $100 million, mostly from sales of his Beats headphone company, along with concert revenue. Dre's music electronics company was co-founded with Jimmy Iovine, who also founded Dre's parent record label, Interscope Records. Interscope was funded by "progressive" billionaire Ted Field, heir to the Marshall Field retail empire and one of the nation's biggest Democratic Party donors.
Dre boosted the careers of prominent Obama hip-hop cheerleaders Eminem and 50 Cent. But overseas, he's rolling like a Romney supporter. The rap mogul is now using a County Cork, Ireland, tax haven to protect his global headphones empire subsidiaries and avoid high U.S. corporate tax rates. The Irish Examiner newspaper explained that the elaborate structuring "allows for money to be (channeled) between the separate companies in the form of royalty payments or (license) fees to artificially but legitimately reduce profits as a means of reducing tax liabilities."
To paraphrase Dre and his Obama-endorsing rap partner Snoop Dogg: Ain't nuthin' but an E thang. Elitism. Exemptions. Evasion.
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