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PIRGIM Education Fund
Jonathan Oosting

Three Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Michigan spent more on lobbying in recent years than they paid in federal taxes, according to a new study released today by the Public Interest Research Group.

"These companies are influencing government in a way that is beyond the capacity of an everyday citizen," Meghan Hess, a program associate with PIRGIM, said today in Detroit outside the headquarters of DTE Energy, one of the companies named in the report.

"Corporations are not people, and they shouldn't be able to influence government more than voters."

The report identifies a total of 30 Fortune 500 companies that spent a combined $475.7 million on lobbying between 2008 and 2010 while paying little to no federal taxes as a result of corporate loopholes, subsidies and off-shore tax havens.

DTE made more than $2.5 billion in domestic profits during that three-year period, according to the report, but actually received $17 million in tax refunds from the federal government while spending $4.4 million on lobbying.

Scott Simmons, a spokesman for DTE, declined comment, telling the company will need an unspecified amount of time to research any specific figures cited in the report.

The 'Dirty Thirty' list includes two other Michigan companies -- Consumers Energy in Jackson and Con-Way in Ann Arbor -- along with notable nationally-recognized names such as General Electric, Verizon and Wells Fargo.

The report was released three days ahead of the one-year anniversary of Citizens United, a controversial Supreme Court ruling that protected political donations by corporations as a form of free speech. 

"We're redefining democracy in the Citizens United era," said Rich Robinson, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. "'My billionaires against your billionaires' is essentially what's playing out right now in the presidential campaign because of super PACs.

"And people don't give money in politics for selfless reasons. They not only drive the outcome of elections, they drive the outcome of the political agenda after the election."

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