In late January, Immelt took on his own elevated role with the Obama administration, accepting an appointment as chairman of the president's new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. The announcement came as Obama and Immelt toured a GE factory in New York state.
GE has also had lobbyists pass through the so-called revolving door, hiring well-placed congressional staffers and seeing its own lobbyists return to Capitol Hill. One woman who had advised the Senate Finance Committee on tax policy, for instance, recently left that post to lobby her former colleagues on GE's behalf. And two former GE lobbyists took pay cuts to work in key committee staff posts on Capitol Hill, including one who now is handling aviation issues for the powerful Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.
Unlike the executive branch, Congress has no rules limiting congressional staffers who move through the so-called revolving door from working on portfolios that could benefit their former employers. Both told ABC News they have assiduously avoided getting involved in discussions about GE's jet engine or other company matters.
GE has retained the services of more than three dozen outside firms, many of them smaller outfits with ties to specific committees or members of Congress. For instance, GE reported paying $170,000 to the firm Clark & Weinstock for James Dyer's efforts to help GE's position in the defense budget. Dyer is a former staff director of the House Appropriations Committee and served as a budget consultant for the U.S. Navy.
More unusual, Miller said, has been the movement of GE lobbyists back into key public-sector posts. Gary Reese left a $200,000-a-year job as a GE lobbyist in 2007 to take a staff position with the Senate's Defense Appropriations Subcommittee that paid him $150,000 annually. According to his financial disclosure forms, he received a $210,000 bonus in his final year with GE.
After having pushed GE's position on the alternate engine as a lobbyist, Reese was returning to the powerful appropriations subcommittee with a portfolio that included aircraft procurement. Reached by ABC News, Reese declined to comment for this story. But a committee spokesman, Rob Blumenthal, said in an email that he could "confirm that Gary Reese does not and has not, since his return to the Committee in 2007, worked on the alternate engine program."
William Hughes also left a career as a senate staffer to take a lobbying job with GE. He worked there from February 2009 to April 2010 and was paid $320,000, according to his financial disclosure report. He told ABC News the payments covered both his salary and a bonus, and said "the one year bonus I received … was paid before I had any discussions about a hill job." In April, Hughes returned to the Senate to be chief of staff to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a senior member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. According to legislative records, he was paid $52,179 for his first five months work, putting his new annual salary at roughly $125,000.
Hughes acknowledged he took a pay cut to return to the senate, telling ABC News that GE was "not for me."
"The job satisfaction is worth the cut in pay," he said.