BUSINESS
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Tax-Dodgers And Their Lobbyists Put The Brakes Obama's Tax-Haven Crackdown: U.S. PIRG

When the Obama administration quietly shelved its proposal to raise $210 billion over 10 years by cracking down on U.S. companies that use overseas subsidiaries to avoid paying U.S. taxes, commenters hailed it as a victory for the business lobby.

Indeed. But the tax-loving folks at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group would like to emphasize that members of a group that led the fight against the administration's proposal, the Promote America's Competitive Edge Coalition, boast hundreds of subsidiaries in tax havens, spend millions contributing to campaigns and lobbying, and hold government contracts worth tens of billions of dollars.

"Money and influence-peddling is unfortunately the name of the game in Washington, D.C.," said PIRG's Lisa Gilbert, who co-authored the report with colleague Nicole Tichon. "However, in the case of offshore tax havens, corporations that play the game well clearly reap benefits that cheat American taxpayers."

The PACE Coalition consists of the combined membership of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (now 90 percent smaller), the Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the National Foreign Trade Council. Twelve of the companies who've signed on to the group's recent letters to Congress landed on a 2008 Government Accountability Office report detailing the hundreds of subsidiaries held in tax havens by the 100 largest U.S. corporations.

That "dirty dozen," as PIRG calls them, have a combined 443 subsidiaries in tax haven countries like the Cayman Islands, and they spent $37 million lobbying last year and $33 million so far this year. Not to mention $6 million in campaign contributions to members of Congress.

Tichon and Gilbert (registered lobbyists themselves) want a dual fix: tax reform and campaign finance reform. Their report, titled "Who Slows the Pace of Tax Reforms?" is available here.

A spokeswoman for the PACE Coalition did not immediately respond to a request for comment.