The Clintons Criticize Companies That Have Donated to Their Foundation

Companies defend their work with the Clinton Foundation.

ByMATTHEW CLAIBORNE
May 03, 2016, 8:20 PM

— -- Hillary Clinton rails against big businesses’ taking advantage of corporate tax loopholes in her stump speeches. But despite a barrage of attack lines on the campaign trail, some of the same companies she has criticized are longtime donors to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.

Pfizer and Johnson Controls have borne the brunt of such attacks from Hillary Clinton and her most influential campaign surrogate, former President Bill Clinton, after each company announced separate mergers that would take chunks of their businesses overseas to Ireland.

As the Democratic front-runner pursues her bid for the White House, she has proposed a penalty tax for companies that leave the United States after receiving taxpayer dollars to stay afloat, even calling out Johnson Controls on the debate stage.

"They came and got part of the bailout because they were an auto parts supplier. Now they want to move some of their headquarters to Europe. They're going to have to pay an exit fee,” Clinton said at the Democratic debate in Flint, Michigan, in March. “We’re going to stop this job exporting, and we’re going to start importing and growing jobs again in our country.”

Clinton even released an official campaign ad in February where she stood in front of Johnson Controls headquarters in Wisconsin and accused them of “gaming the system.”

The Clinton Foundation confirmed that Pfizer and Johnson Controls have both been Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) members for many years, and the companies have worked on a number of initiatives in partnership with the foundation.

Johnson Controls has contributed a total amount of between $100,001 and $250,000 since 2010, according to the Clinton Foundation, which, as a matter of policy, does not release exact amounts of donations.

The Wisconsin-based automotive parts conglomerate “has not made any financial contributions to CGI since last summer in terms of dues,” Johnson Controls spokesman Fraser Engerman said. The decision to renew CGI commitments for this year has yet to be determined, he added.

Johnson Controls has been a paying member of CGI since 2010, and its contributions are only for membership fees for CGI and CGI America, according to Craig Minassian, a spokesman for the foundation.

According to Minassian, in years past, Johnson Controls has also partnered on nine commitments with the Clinton Global Initiative, and former President Bill Clinton has publicly acknowledged while on the campaign trail some of the work Johnson Controls has done with his foundation.

Back in February on the New Hampshire Primary stump, Bill Clinton praised the foundation’s work with the automotive parts company that drastically reduced the electricity use of the Empire State Building. But Clinton told a room of Keane, New Hampshire, voters that he was “sick,” when he was made aware of the proposed merger with Tyco International. “They call it an inversion. Hillary says it’s a perversion.”

Johnson Controls says it did not receive federal bailout money during the financial crisis. In a testimony before Congress in 2008, former COO Keith Wandell argued that allowing major automakers to go out of business would result in massive job losses, and he did not ask for federal funding. Wandell told Congress that Johnson Controls was profitable and “unlike many automotive suppliers, we would weather this storm.” However, he did lobby in favor of bailouts for many of its major customers, including Ford, Chrysler and General Motors.

Pfizer discontinued making contributions to the Clinton Foundation after the second quarter of 2015, but the Clinton Foundation has confirmed that the pharmaceutical giant began contributing to the foundation again in 2016, which makes this the first round of contributions since the Clinton campaign has made the global pharmaceutical corporation a target on the trail.

Pfizer’s contributions fall between a total of $1,000,001 and $5 million since 2005, according to Minassian.

Back in December, Hillary Clinton said the Pfizer-Allergan merger "gets my blood going” to a crowd in Urbandale, Iowa.

While the Johnson Controls merger with Tyco is still underway, Pfizer has since announced it will not merge with global pharmaceutical company Allergan.

Pfizer, like Johnson Controls, has a long-standing history with the Clinton Foundation and has partnered with the foundation to treat children with malaria and promote disease prevention among other initiatives and has previously sponsored the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting.

“Our donations to any group are guided by the group’s ability to work towards preserving and furthering innovation, as well as expanding access to health care and medicines,” Pfizer spokeswoman Sharon Castillo said. “Since 2006, CGI has been a partner in some of our work in developing countries.”

In the spring of 2015, the Clinton Foundation announced it would make its list of donors public and update the list on a quarterly basis. Such new procedures were taken by the Clinton Foundation after Hillary Clinton launched her presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton stepped down from the board of the Clinton Foundation in April 2015 before launching her presidential campaign.

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