November 20, 2019

General Electric Use of Investors’ Money to Fund Extremist Charities Under Scrutiny

Free Enterprise Project Seeks Support for Shareholder Proposal That Probes GE Donations to Clinton Foundation, Planned Parenthood and Center for American Progress

Why Should Shareholder Money Be Spent Funding Abortion Providers and Ethically Challenged Political Groups?

Asheville, NC / Washington, DC  The National Center for Public Policy Research, the nation’s leading proponent of free-market investor activism, is seeking support from General Electric’s investors for its resolution calling on the industrial giant to explain its rationale for donating shareholder money to controversial groups such as Planned Parenthood and the Clinton Foundation.  The proposal, submitted and sponsored by the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project (FEP), highlights instances in which GE’s charitable contributions may be doing more harm than good by damaging the company’s reputation.

GE’s shareholder meeting will be being held on Wednesday, April 26 at the GE Aviation facility in Asheville, North Carolina.  This will be the ninth time a National Center representative has attended a GE shareholder meeting and the seventh corporate shareholder meeting that FEP has participated in so far in 2017.

“Why would GE donate to highly partisan organizations in this highly politicized environment?  And why would GE risk alienating conservative, free-market and pro-life investors and customers by donating to some of the most extreme liberal organizations in America?  Those are just some of the answers we are seeking with our proposal,” said National Center General Counsel and FEP Director Justin Danhof, Esq., who is set to represent the FEP at the meeting.  “Pro-life investors shouldn’t have their shareholder money going to fund Planned Parenthood just as conservative investors shouldn’t be forced to subsidize the Center for American Progress or Planned Parenthood.  If GE makes an honest assessment of our proposal, the company will be forced to explain why it thinks the risk of alienating those investors is somehow outweighed by the benefit of its controversial donations.”

Out of concern that the company’s donations to the Clinton Foundation – which coincided closely with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s efforts to help secure a foreign contract for GE – may have subjected the company to liability for honest services fraud, the National Center previously sought an explanation from GE CEO Jeff Immelt regarding those contributions.  Immelt refused FEP’s request for transparency. That story waswidely covered in the national press, including numerous segments on the Fox News Channel.

The National Center’s proposal asks General Electric to “provide an annual report. . . disclosing: the company’s standards for choosing recipients of company assets in the form of charitable contributions; the business rationale and purpose for each of the charitable contributions, if any; personnel participating in the decision to contribute; the benefits to society at-large produced by company contributions; and a follow-up report confirming the contribution was used for the purpose stated.”

The full text of the National Center’s proposal, and GE’s response to it, are availablehere.  The National Center’s prepared statement in favor of the proposal is availablehere.  Comments from the FEP after the meeting will be available here within hours of the conclusion of the meeting.

The FEP brought similar shareholder proposals before shareholders at Apple earlier this year as well as Coca-Cola, John Deere and McDonalds in 2016.  It also raised corporate funding and affiliation issues with executives of Aetna, Honeywell, Pfizer and UPS in 2015 and 2016.  This is also not the first time the FEP has submitted a shareholder proposal to GE.  In 2014, in response to an FEP proposal, GE proactively changed its corporate policyto protect employees from workplace retribution for private political activities.  The FEP has been attending GE shareholder meetings since 2009.

Launched in 2007, the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market activist group – focusing on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business. Since 2014, National Center representatives have participated in nearly 100 shareholder meetings to advance free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers’ rights and many other important public policy issues.  On April 26, while Danhof is at the General Electric meeting, National Center Vice President David W. Almasi will be participating in Coca-Cola’s shareholder meeting.

 The National Centers Free Enterprise Project activism has yielded a tremendous return on investment:

  • FEPs highly-publicized questioning of support for the Clinton Foundation by Boeing and General Electric helped trigger an FBI investigation of the Clinton Foundations activities that dominated the 2016 presidential campaign.  
  • FEP inquiries prompted Facebook to address political bias against conservatives in social media.
  •  Company executives acknowledged media bias at ABC News (Disney), the Washington Post and CNN (Time Warner) in response to FEPs challenges, which helped to bring about more objective reporting and more balanced political representation.
  • FEPs Employee Conscience Protection Project strengthened protections for the political beliefs and activities of over five million workers at 13 major U.S. corporations.
So far in 2017, the FEP has been featured in media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Variety, Associated Press, Bloomberg, Breitbart, WorldNetDaily, Drudge Report, Business Insider, CNET, National Public Radio, American Family Radio and SiriusXM. In 2016, the FEP was also featured in the Washington Times, the Fox News Channel’s “Cavuto,” the Financial Times, Crain’s Chicago Business, the Hollywood Reporter, the Los Angeles Times, Fortune, Newsmax, the Daily Caller, Lifezette, the Seattle Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Tribuneamong many others.  The Free Enterprise Project was also featured in Wall Street Journal writer Kimberley Strassels 2016 book The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech (Hachette Book Group).

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank.  Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations and less than two percent from corporations.  It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.  Sign up for email updates here.  Follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter for general announcements.  To be alerted to upcoming media appearances by National Center staff, follow our media appearances Twitter account at@NCPPRMedia.

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GE’s Donation to Clinton Foundation Raises Potential Honest Services Fraud Questions

General Electric’s Jeff Immelt Says GE Will Not Make Public Written Communications with State Department During Period When It Made a Major Donation to the Clinton Foundation and then-Secretary of State Clinton Secured a $1.9 Billion Contract with the Algerian Government

Donation to Clinton Foundation Raises Potential Honest Services Fraud Questions

Oklahoma City, OK/Washington, DC – At today’s annual meeting of General Electric shareholders in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the National Center for Public Policy Research asked the industrial giant about the apparent conflict of interest between its philanthropy and the actions of top government officials, and raised the question of whether GE needlessly exposed itself to potential prosecution for honest services fraud.

The National Center’s Justin Danhof asked GE CEO Jeff Immelt to make public emails and other written communications between the State Department and GE during the period when it made a generous contribution to the Clinton Foundation and the State Department arranged a major contract for GE.

GE CEO Jeff Immelt replied, in part: “That’s not something we would do.”

“There is no evidence that GE did anything wrong – but that’s the point – there is no evidence period,” said Danhof. “When one of the world’s most powerful companies teams with the Secretary of State and the end result is a massive donation going one way and a multi-billion foreign contract coming back the other way, the company’s investors are right to ask questions. Now it is up to the media and Congress to do their part and investigate and use subpoenas if necessary to find the truth.”

“It is disappointing to see Immelt put GE in the same boat as Mrs. Clinton in hiding the company’s communications from public view,” added Danhof. “We even broke from tradition and provided Immelt with our question in advance, which means that Immelt’s choice to keep these communications hidden was a calculated one. That raises the specter of suspicion on GE’s dealings with the Clinton Foundation even more. Presumably if the company has nothing to hide, it wouldn’t hide anything.”

Danhof asked GE CEO Jeff Immelt, in part:

…while Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton lobbied foreign governments on behalf of companies including General Electric at a time when those companies were making donations to the Clinton Foundation. In late 2012, for example, Clinton urged the Algerian government to award a power plant contract to GE. GE contributed to the Clinton Foundation. Then in 2013, Algeria awarded the power plant contract to GE. By donating to the Clinton Foundation while receiving a huge favor from the Secretary of State, did we not expose our company to the risk of being charged with honest services fraud?

Danhof further asked:

Since Mrs. Clinton had control of her business emails during this time and has said she deleted many of them, GE presumably is the only entity with evidence that everything was above board. To prevent the company from being the focus of any media or public investigation, would you consider making public all the Company’s written communications with the State Department during the relevant period?

?An audio recording of the entire exchange is available on YouTube here.

To read Danhof’s full question, as prepared for delivery, click here.

“The company’s actions are really the focus here, not Mrs. Clinton’s,” said Danhof. “Lobbyists have been imprisoned under honest services fraud for far less than the sum that changed hands between GE and the Clinton Foundation. The Wall Street Journal reported that GE donated between $500,000 and $1 million to a health partnership with the Clinton Foundation. Clinton’s subsequent actions helped GE obtain a contract with the Algerian government to supply turbines for six power plants to the tune of $1.9 billion.”

“As I am sure GE’s lawyers are well aware, interpretations and enforcement of honest services fraud are murky at best,” added Danhof. “GE should be able to provide documentation that would prove to even the most skeptical judge or jury that all of its actions with the Clinton Foundation and the State Department do not meet even the most limited definition of honest services fraud.”

“Ideally,” added Danhof, “GE should eliminate the likelihood that it is involved in any embarrassing federal or media investigation, and the damage that would do to investors, by being completely transparent and making all relevant written communications public.”

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market activist group focusing on corporations. In 2014, Free Enterprise Project representatives participated in 52 shareholder meetings and today’s General Electric meeting marks the eighth shareholder meeting for the National Center in 2015.

The National Center for Public Policy Research was founded in 1982. Sign up for free issue alerts here and go here to make a tax-deductible contribution to help us fight for liberty.

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ObamaCare is Hurting Business, General Electric Says

National Center for Public Policy Research Quizzed GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt at Company Shareholder Meeting Today

Immelt Says There is “A Lot of Uncertainty in Health Care”; Company CFO Blames Downturn in Company’s Health Care Division Directly on ObamaCare

National Center Also Asked GE to Institute a Conscience Guarantee in GE’s Code of Conduct Respecting an Employee’s Right to Engage in Legal Political and Civic Activities, in Light of Mozilla/Brendan Eich Situation

Chicago, IL – General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt today doubled-down on acknowledgements by his company that ObamaCare is hurting the business sector, saying in response to a question posed by the National Center for Public Policy Research, “there is still a lot of uncertainty in health care.”

Immelt’s statement followed a report by GE Senior Vice President and CFO Jeffrey S. Bornstein that a decline in the profitability of GE’s previously-solid health care division over the last two quarters came about because “Hospitals and clinics appear to be delaying purchases and responses to the Affordable Care Act.” Mr. Immelt also has referenced the health care market’s recent “volatility.”

“ObamaCare’s devastation is so far-reaching that it is now having a tangible, real-world negative affect on one of the world’s largest and most diversified companies,” said Justin Danhof, Esq., director of the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project. “As CEO, Mr. Immelt has vast health care experience, yet even he cannot predict what the future of the Affordable Care Act will do to the country or his company.”

Danhof met one-on-one with Immelt before the shareholder meeting and also asked him two questions during the meeting itself, one on ObamaCare and the other on General Electric’s policy toward legal, personal, outside-of-work political activities in light of the firing of Brendan Eich from Mozilla over his civic activities.

Audio of Danhof’s question and Immelt’s answer is available here; Danhof’s question as prepared for delivery is available here.

“In light of the Mozilla situation, the National Center for Public Policy Research is urging companies to affirmatively guarantee their employees’ right to participate fully in legal civic activities according to their consciences without their jobs being affected,” said Amy Ridenour, chairman of the National Center. “A review of General Electric’s Code of Conduct found no such explicit guarantee, but some wording showing that it may have been intended. We asked Mr. Immelt to make that guarantee explicit.”

Immelt declined to answer the Mozilla/Code of Conduct question today because he had not been aware of Brendan Eich’s firing or the issues raised by it prior to his private meeting with Justin Danhof today.

“I both met one-on-one with Mr. Immelt prior to the meeting and then asked him in front of the board of directors and the shareholders about the ouster of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich. Despite being one of the largest news stories outside of the missing Malaysian jet, Mr. Immelt had not heard of Mozilla’s capitulation to narrow-minded activists. This highlights the importance of bringing public policy issues to corporate leaders who often do not have the time to acquaint themselves with issues outside of their business responsibilities. This is another reason the Free Enterprise Project’s work is so important,” said Danhof.

“We will be following up with General Electric on this point in coming days,” said Ridenour. “And with other companies as well.”

“And as for ObamaCare,” Ridenour continued, “Mr. Immelt’s comments and General Electric’s health care division’s recent experiences provide yet another solid reason to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with patient-centered reforms. It is a very bad sign for patients that hospitals and clinics are delaying or cancelling orders for medical equipment they otherwise would have made, if not for the passage of ObamaCare.”

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a General Electric shareholder and regularly attends the company’s shareholder meetings.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, three percent from foundations, and three percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.

Contributions are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.

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GE Makes Major Global Warming Concession

Leading Free-Market Activists Score Major Concession on Global Warming-Related Spending from General Electric

After Years of Fighting Disclosures, Lobbying for Energy Subsidies and Pushing for Government Control of Carbon Emissions, GE Formally Agrees to End Projects Designed Solely to Seek Carbon Dioxide Reductions Due to Climate Change Concerns

Washington DC – After years of meetings, shareholder proposals, media campaigns, protests and activism, the National Center for Public Policy Research received a commitment from General Electric that the international conglomerate will no longer engage in any environmental project solely to address so-called climate change concerns.

“General Electric’s pledge to only pursue environmental projects that meet common business criteria is the culmination of years of efforts and a recognition that sustainability and the free market can work in concert,” said Justin Danhof, Esq., director of the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project. “For years, GE has been the poster boy for crony capitalism and corporate America’s green energy cheerleader. Now, GE shareholders have confirmation that the company’s strategies will henceforth be led by true market forces and not by blind adherence to global warming zealotry.”

Late last year, the National Center submitted a shareholder proposal for inclusion in GE’s 2014 proxy statement and annual meeting materials that sought certain commitments regarding the company’s sustainability operations and carbon dioxide reduction efforts. The proposal “request[ed] that the Board of Directors adopt a policy that General Electric not undertake any energy savings or sustainability project for the sole goal of seeking carbon dioxide emissions reductions due to climate change concerns, except as required by law.”

The proposal noted, in part, that “[g]iven the Company’s goal of reducing energy use (carbon dioxide emissions) and its admission that balancing this task with common business metrics is ‘difficult at best,’ shareholders are concerned that the Company may make some decisions in which the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions is a higher priority than maximizing financial returns.”

Typically, General Electric and other publicly-held companies work to ensure that shareholder proposals – especially those perceived as critical of a company’s operations – never see the light of day. Companies have the right to petition the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to exclude proposals for a myriad of technical and substantive violations of federal guidelines. Corporations such as GE usually hire expensive law firms to combat shareholder proponents.

“Rather than contesting the National Center’s free market shareholder proposal, GE’s management team made the strategic decision to amend its corporate documents to align with the parameters of our proposal,” explained Danhof. “We applaud GE for codifying its dedication to free-market principles and shareholder value. More companies should take cues from GE on this issue.”

Officially, GE revised its corporate documents and “its policy statements regarding Corporate Social Responsibility (the ‘CSR Policy’) to explicitly set forth the Company’s policy that it will not undertake any energy saving or sustainability project solely to address the issue of climate change.”

After the change, GE unequivocally stated that “[t]he plain language of the CSR Policy thus makes clear that the Company will not embark on any energy savings or sustainability initiative where the sole goal is to address climate change concerns.”

To read the entire exchange between the National Center and General Electric as catalogued on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s website, go here.

This year’s victory for the National Center for Public Policy Research comes after years of shareholder activism directed towards GE’s destructive environmental policies and other crony practices.

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project has aggressively fought liberalism at GE for the past six years. At 2008’s shareholder meeting, for example, the National Center confronted GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt about the company’s dealing’s with Iran, calling them “blood money.” Immelt responded that GE was in the process of getting out of business dealings with Iran.

At the 2009 GE shareholder meeting, the National Center confronted Immelt over left-wing bias at the company’s then-owned NBC television channels and criticized the company’s crony relationship with President Obama that was being used to advance green energy legislation. The company responded by shutting off the microphone as the National Center staff member was still asking the question. In fact, Immelt was so upset by the National Center’s questions that he ordered company-wide retaliation against news outlets that reported the story.

In 2010, three National Center staffers, including National Center President David Ridenour, questioned Immelt over the company’s lobbying in favor of cap-and-trade global warming legislation, ObamaCare, and the liberal slant on MSNBC. Immelt refused to answer Ridenour’s question about MSNBC’s extreme anti-conservative bias.

Also in 2010, the National Center called out Immelt for exploiting President Ronald Reagan’s legacy by pandering to conservatives by hosting a celebration commemorating what would have been the 40th President’s 100th birthday.

At GE’s 2011 shareholder meeting, the National Center participated in a rally seeking to oust Immelt as CEO for his support of ObamaCare, President Obama’s stimulus spending bill and federal cap-and-trade legislation. The National Center also submitted a shareholder proposal, which GE fought at the Securities and Exchange Commission, asking the company to disclose the business risks associated with climate change regulations.

In December 2011, National Center Chairman Amy Ridenour also called out GE for its support of a de facto ban on the traditional incandescent light bulb, which was pushed on the public as an anti-global warming measure.

At the 2012 GE shareholder meeting, the Free Enterprise Project questioned the conflicts arising from Immelt’s position as chairman of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness while still serving as GE’s CEO. Immelt, incredibly, claimed there was no conflict.

At last year’s GE shareholder meeting, Danhof asked Immelt if he would consider a proposal “to repeal ObamaCare’s medical device tax while keeping the move financially balanced by simultaneously ending taxpayer subsidies to the wind power industry.” Striking a more collegial tone with the National Center, Immelt said the proposal was “interesting” and agreed that the idea was worth considering.

As far back as 2011, Immelt began making some concessions that GE might someday abandon its crony push for cap-and-trade global warming legislation. He told an MIT Enterprise Forum audience that he had “lost interest in calling on the United States to develop a more comprehensive energy policy.” But as National Center President David Ridenour pointed out at the time, “talk is cheap.”

But in adopting the National Center’s proposal this year, GE formally amended its corporate documents and can be held to account if it strays from its commitment to abandon all projects that are solely focused on climate change concerns.

“All too often, shareholders find themselves facing almost insurmountable odds when they believe the company they have invested in has strayed from free-market principles. In this case, the company has done the right thing,” said Danhof. “Not only is this a victory for General Electric’s shareholders and employees, it is a victory for all Americans.”

“For the past quarter-century, government and corporate efforts have plowed billions into the promotion and exploitation of the human-caused catastrophic global warming theory,” added Amy Ridenour, chairman of the National Center for Public Policy Research. “The result has been higher taxes, greater deficits, higher prices, job loss and greater government control over our daily lives – all in service of a theory based on computer models that are not coming true. More and more people around the world are waking up to the fact that the global warming theory is about hot air, all right, but that a startlingly high percentage of that hot air is coming from people pushing the theory, not hardworking people going about their daily business. Slowly but surely, the expensive, job-killing and liberty-encroaching global warming leviathan is being defeated. We commend General Electric for taking this step and encourage other corporations to follow its lead.”

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is one of the leading free-market activist groups in America. In 2013, representatives of its Free Enterprise Project attended 33 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, media bias, gun rights and many more important public policy issues.
The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.

Contributions are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.

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