Editor’s Note: Considering President Obama’s recent decision to tap GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt to head a new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, we thought our readers might be interested to read a piece on General Electric’s cozy relationship with the Obama White House from the October 2009 issue of Townhall Magazine. To order Townhall Magazine, click here.
Barack Obama rose to office promising to take on the “special interests.” But there may be no “special interest” quite as special and quite as well connected as General Electric.
The company spends more on lobbying than any other corporation. GE’s CEO has a weekly phone call with a top economic policy official in Obama’s White House. GE, of course, also owns three television stations, including one -- MSNBC -- that has been famously supportive of Barack Obama.
And since Obama has entered the White House, it seems -- to adapt the children’s rhyme -- everywhere that Barry went, GE was sure to go:
• Obama pushes a cap-and-trade scheme for curbing greenhouse gasses -- GE invests in greenhouse gas credits.
• Obama advocates federal support for expanding high-speed rail across the country -- GE ramps up its investment in high-speed rail.
• Obama dedicates federal funding to embryonic stem-cell research that destroys human embryos -- GE partners with stem-cell giant Geron.
• Obama announces a federal push to curb health care expenses -- GE launches “healthymagination,” an initiative pitched as creating more affordable high-tech medical products.
The timing between the Obama pushes and the GE investments cuts both ways, as does the causality, it seems: GE is swaying the White House as well as following the White House closely.
GE’s political action committee (PAC) spent $1.56 million in the 2008 election, while employees and executives of the company gave another $1.69 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Sixty-five percent of those donations went to Democrats -- reversing the pattern from the years when the GOP controlled Congress and 53 percent to 60 percent of GE money went to Republicans. So far this cycle, GE is leaning even more Democratic, giving 69 percent of its cash to Dems.
By far, the top recipient of GE money last election was Barack Obama. Obama received far more from GE last cycle -- $458,730 -- than any candidate in history. The company was in the top 15 of Obama’s fundraising sources. He raised nearly five times as much as McCain from GE, and more than the top 25 Republicans, combined.