NORWALK, Conn. – General Electric Capital was labeled "King of the Tax Dodgers" on Tuesday by a group of about 40 people who arrived at its Norwalk corporate office to stage a protest. But Norwalk police ushered them out of the Merritt 7 complex.
"I am here with the Citizens' Revenue Service," said Danny Ravizza of Durham, who was one of several protesters wearing costume police-style hats. "We are here to collect GE's unpaid federal income tax since they paid no federal income tax last year, and I believe they made something like $4.2, $4.3 billion in profits. That's money that can go back into the community. ... We didn't quite get to their headquarters, but I think we got the message out."
The protesters arrived at 901 Main Ave. just before 1 p.m. Police were summoned, but the group was allowed to stay on the property for about a half-hour because one protester fell and was injured, according to Tom Swan, one of the protesters. The injured protester tripped on a curb and was taken away on a backboard.
"We had gone as far as we could have gone," Ravizza said. "They blocked us from entering further to deliver our message to GE. We saw some security guards on the way up and police, too, who could benefit from their contributions if they were only willing to make them."
GE Capital is the financial services unit of Fairfield-based General Electric. It provides commercial lending and leasing as well as financial services in industries including health care, media, communications, entertainment, consumers, real estate and aviation.
The group stood on the Main Avenue sidewalk for about 10 minutes chanting, "Whose side are all you on? Wall Street or Main Street?" and "Hey GE, pay your taxes!" as one man beat on a drum. Then they walked up Main Avenue toward their vehicles, led by Ravizza and a Stamford man with a banner that read "General Electric, King of the Tax Dodgers."
"In the last four years they have made over $10 billion in profits in the United States and not only have they not paid any taxes they've taken $4 billion in public subsidies," Swan said. "We think that it's high time that corporations that get rich pay their fair share, and we invest it in jobs and education."
"The protesters have their facts wrong, GE paid taxes and did not receive a refund," Andrew Williams, director of media relations for GE, said in an email. "In fact, GE's global rate was 29 percent in 2011, up from 7 percent in 2010. The source of this misinformation is the interest group CTJ, and we have said over and over that its reporting on GE's taxes has been biased and misleading."
Protesters did not mention CTJ. "It's not just GE, it's Bank of America, a whole bunch of others who are skipping out on their taxes," said Ravizza, who referred to US Uncut when asked for the source of his information. "We targeted GE because they have their headquarters in Norwalk, but there's many, many others out there."
"If I don't pay my taxes I get thrown in jail," said Kate Tepper of Norwalk. "GE is minus 2 percent. That's what it pays."
Tepper said people such as General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt use their money to buy politicians, adding that many legislators take corporation-friendly bills written by the American Legislative Exchange Council and submit them for a vote. "All our politicians are bought and sold," she said. "There's a very few real honest ones. We have to get money out of politics."
Tepper ran for the Common Council last fall, her second campaign for office. She said she funded her campaign herself. "I used everything of my own, and I walked the streets," she said. "I called on my own phone. I lost by 57 votes."
"GE has 131,000 U.S. employees and it continues to invest in America," Williams said in the email. "Since 2009, GE has announced the creation of more than 13,500 new U.S. jobs. We are building 16 new manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and the types of jobs in these facilities will be similar to those in our existing facilities.
"These are high-value manufacturing jobs to produce appliances, jet engines, advanced battery technologies and turbines. All of our businesses, to some extent, have a lower total tax liability as a result of tax incentives at the federal, state or local level for certain investments and activities."