As the leader of a new advocacy group, Progressives United, former Sen. Russell Feingold may go from being a thorn in the side of corporate America to being a thorn in the side of President Obama.
The former three-term Democratic senator from Wisconsin, who lost his seat last November, is urging the members of his group to pressure Jeffrey Immelt, CEO and chairman of General Electric and chairman of Obama’s recently created Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, to step down in the wake of reports that GE uses tax loopholes and creative accounting to avoid paying any taxes in the United States.
Though Feingold mentioned the new tax revelation in an e-mail to Progressives United, the chief offense he said Immelt has committed is seeing his compensation double while preparing to ask 15,000 unionized GE workers to take major pay cuts.
“That's wrong,” Feingold wrote. “Someone like Immelt, who has helped his company evade taxes on its huge profits—and is now looking to workers to take major pay cuts after his compensation was doubled—should not lead the administration's effort to create jobs.”
Feingold said that if Immelt does not step down, Obama should ask for his resignation from the council.
Not long after Feingold's announcement, liberal advocacy group MoveOn joined in the calls for Immelt's resignation, setting up their own petition for members to sign.
"This sort of bad corporate behavior should not be rewarded with a top White House appointment. Jeff Immelt should resign immediately,” said MoveOn Executive Director Justin Ruben.
Asked briefly about the GE tax news in a briefing last week, White House press secretary Jay Carney said only that Obama still supports corporate-tax reform. Asked again about the president's association with Immelt at Wednesday's briefing, he said, "Membership on the jobs council, as the president made clear, is not decided by agreement on every issue. The whole point of the jobs council is to get outside advice, to generate ideas for the president to consider ways he can increase American competitiveness and create jobs.”