The Dirty Dozen Tax Dodgers

Co-authored by Matt Leonard and Becky Tarbotton – Executive Director of Rainforest Action Network

Billionaire real estate investor and legendary tax evader Leona Helmsley famously said: “Only the little people pay taxes.” It turns out Helmsley was all too right.

Last month’s discovery that GE paid zero in taxes in 2010 has exploded across the news. But GE is not alone. Rainforest Action Network reviewed the top four banks, oil and coal companies in the country, and found that all of them are gaming the system. In fact, Bank of America, Citi, Massey Energy and Chevron have also all paid zero in federal income taxes this year or in year’s past.

We reviewed 12 of the dirtiest corporate tax dodgers: Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, Chevron, BP, Shell, Exxon, Massey Energy, Alpha Natural Resources, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal. These 12 banks, oil and coal companies are responsible for foreclosing on millions of people’s homes and polluting our air, water and climate. At the same time, we found that they pay next to nothing into a tax system that provides the very services that protect the homeless, the sick and our environment.

As the graphic below shows, banks, oil and coal companies are making billions in profits annually and paying much less than their fair share in taxes. In fact, the top four oil companies in the country made $1.26 trillion in gross revenues and paid a shocking 2.04% average tax rate.

Dirty Corporate Tax Dodgers Infographic

Click here to see graphic at full size

If just the top banks, oil and coal companies actually paid the IRS corporate tax rate of 35%, they would be giving back $62 billion this tax season. That is almost double the current $38 billion proposed federal budget cuts.

To add insult to injury, while these multi-billion dollar industries are raking in the profits and evading their taxes they were also paying millions in CEO compensation and lobby dollars. These corporations are happy to pay large sums to manipulate our democracy but aren’t so interested in paying to support that democracy.

So, let’s get one thing straight: America is not broke, and these dirty corporations don’t need any more handouts, bailouts, or subsidies. We don’t have a money problem, we have a priorities problem. We’re slashing billions from our budget, much of which will come out of social services and environmental protections, while allowing corporate giants to slip ever-increasing profits into offshore accounts.

By reversing years of tax giveaways to the largest corporations, Congress could raise trillions in revenue not only covering our budget deficit but also enhancing education, health and environmental programs that safeguard our families and our future.

Pissed off? You should be. It’s time corporate tax dodgers pay their fair share. You can get involved with RAN’s campaigns to hold Wall Street, King Coal and Big Oil accountable. And US Uncut is leading actions on Tax Day to call out corporate tax dodgers – get involved!

United States vs. Tim DeChristopher

Photo by Tyler March

I’ve spent the past week in Salt Lake City, UT – supporting the local group Peaceful Uprising, and my friend Tim DeChristopher. For those that aren’t familiar with Tim – he gained notoriety in 2008 when he went to a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) auction of oil and gas leases, and he raised his Bidder #70 paddle to win 22,000 acres, at a cost of $1.8 million dollars. Not surprisingly, he didn’t have $1.8 million dollars. What he did have was the courage and conviction to take creative direct action to prevent this land from being sold off for the short-term profit of oil companies who care nothing about the justice, ecology, or a livable future.

This afternoon, Tim goes to trial for disrupting the auction. Despite the fact that the BLM auction was later invalidated under the Obama administration (the BLM violated its own rules and rushed the auction through at the behest of the oil industry), Tim is still facing up to 10 years in jail, and a $750,000 fine.

Continue reading ‘United States vs. Tim DeChristopher’

Climb Against Coal takes the message to new heights!

This past weekend a group of concerned mothers from the Seattle area took their message to the top of the most glaciated mountain in the lower 48 states – Mount Rainier.

Calling themselves Climb Against Coal - these self-proclaimed Mountain Momma’s summited the 14,411 feet of the mountain in support of the Coal Free Washington campaign.

Their goal was to raise awareness about the need to end our reliance on coal, and specifically to call for the closure of Washington State’s only remaining coal-fired power plant in Centralia, operated by Transalta. This power plant is the single largest source of global warming pollution in the state, and a major cause of respiratory diseases and premature deaths.

As the summit team was coming back down the mountain,  a support team laid out a nearly 75,000 square foot “No Coal” banner on the Inner Glacier – which is believed to be the largest banner in the history of the movement! The banner was viewable from nearby peaks nearly a mile away from the Glacier.  The nearly 2-acre banner took 15 volunteers all morning to layout, using several thousand feet of landscaping fabric.  Continue reading ‘Climb Against Coal takes the message to new heights!’

Offsets are a CROC.

Sometimes it’s better to laugh than cry, and believe me, the reality that we might rely on carbon offsets as a primary means to reduce our global warming emissions is enough to make me weep. The situation is so absurd that Greenpeace this week launched thecroc.org, a satirical look at how carbon offsets could undermine both U.S. legislation and the U.N. climate negotiations by giving big polluters a giant loophole to continue dirty business as usual.

Carbon offsets often do not deliver promised results. Offsets from forest projects are especially unreliable because the deforestation they are supposed to stop in one area can easily move elsewhere. The use of these sorts of offsets would not only give big polluters a giant loophole, it could actually increase global warming pollution.

In addition, as carbon credits are paid for and traded under a new cap and trade system, low-quality offsets threaten to corrupt those new markets. Cheap offsets could literally act as “sub-prime” carbon credits, creating huge financial risks. This risk was demonstrated yet again this week when the U.N. actually shut down SGS UK, one of the world’s leading carbon offset accreditation firms, after it was unable to show that its staff had thoroughly vetted offset projects.

The SGS embarrassment was a blow to backers of offset schemes and it should be a wake up call to policymakers as they work to craft new climate agreements both here and internationally. The ACES bill that cleared the House earlier this year has up to 2 billion tons of offsets available per year.

Because the situation is so ridiculous, Greenpeace had a bit of fun and developed CROC, a fake government agency that confers the benefits of carbon offsets to the average citizen. Users can get credit for doing some good for the environment, which they can use to do some thing bad to it, just like corporate polluters do. Check out the PSA above and follow CROC on Twitter!

Greenpeace banner on Mt Rushmore, and FIVE coal plants occupied in Italy.

8.09.62.KDYesterday,  I was arrested along with 11 other Greenpeace activists for hanging a 2300 square foot banner on the face of Mount Rushmore. We hung this banner on the opening day of the G8 meetings in Italy, and while the Senate looks to debate the Waxman-Markey bill - the first piece of comprehensive climate legislation in the US (and industry and many Democrats have rendered the bill more harmful than helpful).

The banner was hung just to the side of Lincoln’s head – and read “America Honors Leaders – Not Politicians: Stop Global Warming”. Concurrently in Italy, over 100 Greenpeace activists currently occupied FIVE coal-fired power plants across the country. At least one of these Italian actions is from aa US/Canadian team – and activists from 18 countries are involved in the protests that intend to last the duration of the G8 meeting.

With our best scientists stressing the urgency of the climate crisis – we cannot afford compromises or pandering to dirty industries – we need dramatic action that reflects the best climate science -  not political convenience. This is the type of bold action that is needed to bring about real action to solve the climate crisis. Whether you believe him or not – Obama often has good rhetoric around the need to address climate change. But we need to take heed from the famous words of Franklin Roosevelt – “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.” Continue reading ‘Greenpeace banner on Mt Rushmore, and FIVE coal plants occupied in Italy.’

Waxman-Markey climate bill a wish list for Duke Energy?

waxmanmarkeyWhile it’s a sad fact that corporate and industry interests regularly write the basis for much of our Federal legislation, there has been some impressive political maneuvering from the coal and utility industry around the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security (ACESA) Act. In many ways, the ACESA bill reads like a wish list for the coal industry – from multi-billion dollar handouts to the coal industry for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), to allowing enough offsets to allow business-as-usual for coal for decades!

Today, a story in the Washington Times (admittedly, not the most objective paper) ran which called out an exemption in the bill for Duke Energy and other utilities that have coal power plants already permitted or under construction. While ACES has some regulation around new coal plants (requiring retrofits by 2015 with an unproven CCS technology that doesn’t exist yet) – these exemptions would effectively grandfather in two Duke Energy plants currently proposed  – Cliffside in North Carolina and Edwardsport in Indiana.  Not coincidentally, Duke Energy has had a strong role in shaping the ACESA bill, from helping draft the US-CAP blueprint that provided the basis for ACESA, to having CEO Jim Rogers testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearings on the bill.

While many people saw ACESA as a good first step but needing improvements – the bill seems to be getting worse and worse, rather than better.  When the loudest voice from the “environmental community” is from the Duke/industry-led US-CAP – it’s time our movement rolls up its sleeves and starts pushing back to ensure meaningful legislation that will stop the climate crisis, and build a just economy based on clean energy. Right now we are being outplayed by industry – and it’s nothing less than our future at stake.

Continue reading ‘Waxman-Markey climate bill a wish list for Duke Energy?’

Seven arrested hanging banner at Major Economies meeting in DC

closeupEarly this morning, 7 activists from Greenpeace climbed a construction crane high above the State Department in Washington DC, to deploy a giant banner stating: “TOO BIG TO FAIL: Stop Global Warming – Rescue the Climate”.

The action unfolded just before leaders from the worlds most polluting countries gathered for the Major Economies Forum at the State Department. While the MEF was started by Bush to undermine the Kyoto process, Obama recently announced a continuation of the meeting – recognizing the need for the world’s major economies to address climate change in the lead-up to Copenhagen. Hillary Clinton was addressing the crowd at the State Department, while Obama himself was speaking next door at the National Academy of Sciences.

The climbers and the banner were up for several hours, in full view of  Hillary and Obama’s motorcades, thousands of DC residents, the international delegates to the meeting, and international press. Already, the action has been covered in the Washington Post, CNN, the Guardian UK, Wall Street Journal. and Associated Press

And of course, this action builds on the growing momentum of the global climate justice movement, including the recent events such as the thousands risking arrest at the Capitol Climate Action in March, to  Cliffside in North Carolina last week, to the waves of actions trying to save Coal River Mountain, to the mass mobilzations at the UK climate camp. Our movement is growing, our actions are escalating – and together, we will fight for climate justice!

Continue reading ‘Seven arrested hanging banner at Major Economies meeting in DC’

Is “Washington” Winning?

This is a repost of Ted Glick’s latest Future Hope column. I felt it was an excellent, and sobering assessment of where much of the US climate movement is, and some smart strategies for victory.

Ispoznan “Washington” Winning?

By Ted Glick

It was a couple of weeks before the historic March 2nd shutdown action at the coal-fired Capitol Power Plant on Capitol Hill in D.C. A national leader of an important climate group came up to me in the hallway at a conference we were both attending to express concern about the action. She had heard from Nancy Pelosi’s office, which was not happy that the action was happening. I asked, “what are the specific concerns?” and wasn’t able to get a clear answer.

And this was a national leader of a climate group that has been among the strongest when it comes to calling for serious, substantial and science-based reductions of dangerous greenhouse gas emissions, a minimum of 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 for countries like the U.S.

Continue reading ‘Is “Washington” Winning?’

BREAKING: Pelosi/Reid call to switch Capitol Power Plant off of coal!

Breaking news – and the organizing hub for the Capitol Climate Action is lit up right now!

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid just made an announcement moments ago – calling to switch the Capitol Power Plant entirely off of coal! Just 4 days before thousands of people are mobilizing at the facility for the largest act of civil disobedience in US history for the climate – this statement shows the power of grassroots action!cca-table-banner

The Capitol Power Plant has been controversial for years – as an antiquated, inefficient facility that is the largest source of  pollution in Washington DC. While efforts to clean up the plant and switch off it’s usage of coal have been attempted for years (including by Pelosi and the Greening the Capitol Initiative), powerful coal state interests (namely Senators Mitch McConnell and Robert Byrd) have blocked attempts to end it’s usage of coal. This plant symbolizes the stranglehold coal has over our climate, our environment, our communities, and our political process.

In the past 2 weeks, the Capitol Climate Action Coalition (made up of over 100 organizations from across the country) sent letters to Congress, informing them of our intent for peaceful action March 2nd at the Capitol Power Plant that is  reflecting the urgency and seriousness of the climate crisis.  And as the media buzz and public interest grows for this historic mobilization – we are flexing out political muscles, showing that people are demanding real change in our climate and energy policies. Continue reading ‘BREAKING: Pelosi/Reid call to switch Capitol Power Plant off of coal!’

Susan Sarandon Video Supports Capitol Climate Action in Washington, DC.

In a new video, Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon evokes the sacrifices of Ghandi and Martin Luther King in calling on Americans to join the Capitol Climate Action, the country’s largest show of civil disobedience about global warming in history, at the Capitol Power Plant on March 2nd 2009.

Says Sarandon:

“Gandhi. Martin Luther King. They were willing to stand up for what’s right, even if it meant peacefully breaking the law. Civil disobedience can overcome great challenges. And global warming is the greatest challenge of our time.”

This video brings another nationally respected voice to America’s call for urgent action to address the climate crisis. Supported by James Hansen, Bill McKibben Wendell Berry, Reverend Lennox Yearwood, and more than 60 environmental, faith, social justice, and community groups – the Capitol Climate Action aims to turn a new corner for the climate movement.  Continue reading ‘Susan Sarandon Video Supports Capitol Climate Action in Washington, DC.’


Matt Leonard


Matt lives in San Francisco, where he enjoys working on climate justice and energy issues, supporting direct action as a strategy for social change, rock climbing, biking, punk rock, and the plethora of vegan food options. He has been involved in radical social justice and ecological movements for over 15 years.

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