Earlier this week, a team of "99% Citizen Tax Enforcers" started preparing for tax day by delivering "bills" to tax-dodging corporations. The bills aren't "official" but they are a reminder of exactly why we're facing state and federal budget holes when we all pay our fair share of taxes.
Monday -- $895 Million "Bill" delivered to Exelon and CEO John Rowe
It was a busy morning for the dozens of Stand Up! Chicago members who made their way to Chase Plaza in downtown Chicago bright and early Monday to greet Exelon shareholders and executives at the company's annual meeting.
The reason for their visit? Exelon's distinguished status as one of the top "tax dodging" U.S. corporations, according to a report by the nonprofit advocacy and research group Citizens for Tax Justice.
"Let's put it this way," explained protestor John Hayes, who addressed the crowd as Exelon shareholders filed into the meeting. "Exelon not only didn't have to pay any federal taxes on its $2.5 billion in profit in 2010, it actually got a tax refund of almost a billion dollars. Working families pay their fair share because it's the right thing to do. We're here to tell Exelon and John Rowe to pay their fair share, too."
As security officers stepped outside the building and lined the sidewalk, the protestors formed a picket line, chanting "Exelon, you can't hide, we can see your greedy side!" and holding an eight-foot puppet of outgoing Exelon CEO John Rowe.
Moments later, a white van emblazoned with the words "99% Tax Enforcers" pulled up to the curb and a team of "tax enforcers" -- dressed in black suits and sunglasses and carrying briefcases -- poured out. Protestors and passersby cheered and laughed as the "tax enforcers," one of whom was blasting the Mission Impossible theme song from a boom box, made their way to the building.
"Exelon owes the 99% $895 million in federal taxes," said one enforcer, presenting the security officer guarding the building entrance with a giant "fair tax bill." "It is our duty to send a message to Exelon and other corporate tax dodgers: Pay your fair share."
Tuesday -- Delivery of $2 Billion "Bill" for Chicago Mercantile Exchange CEO Terrence Duffy
Tuesday afternoon took the "Tax Enforcer" team to the Northwestern Campus, where CME Chairman Emeritus Leo Melamed was cutting a ribbon for new practice "trading rooms." They had a "bill" to deliver to CME CEO Terrence Duffy, but Duffy isn't the easiest man to get some face time with -- especially if you're wearing buttons identifying yourself as a "99% Citizen Tax Enforcer" and come bearing an oversized "bill" for $665 million. So the enforcer squad delivered Duffy's bill to Melamed instead, with the request that he pass it on. Whether or not Duffy receives the oversized hard copy of the bill or not, the message that the 99% wants CME to pay their fair share was definitely delivered.
Wednesday -- A Long Search for Bank of America's Brian Moynihan, With a $1.9 Billion "Tax Bill" in Hand
This morning, our intrepid team took on Bank of America -- a bailed out bank that somehow managed to secure a $5 billion tax refund in 2009 while making $5.5 billion in U.S. profits. How can a highly profitable bank get a multi-billion dollar payout of taxpayer funds? It has something to do with offshore companies in known tax havens like the Cayman Islands. The "Tax Enforcers" looked for CEO Brian Moynihan at three separate branch locations, before agreeing to deliver the "bill" to a spokesperson instead.
At least they were told by bank employees that a spokesperson was on the way. If you've ever tried to get a mortgage adjustment from Bank of America, you know better than to trust the promise of any kind of help or service being "on the way." The spokesperson never came, but the bank still took the bill -- after the tax enforcers left it leaning against the wall and began walking away. Apparently, they weren't that eager to get the bill, but they didn't want to leave it hanging around outside either. Regular taxpayers walking by might catch a glimpse of where their money was going.
The Tax Enforcer team tells me that this is just the beginning. "Chicagoans should be on the lookout for us," said one. "These aren't the only federal tax dodgers in the city, and it's our job to deliver 'fair tax bills' to the worst offenders, on behalf of the 99% who do pay their taxes."