Pay What?

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A study released today by the Institute for Policy Studies showed that 25 out of 100 of the top earning CEO's were actually paid more in compensation than their company's paid in federal taxes.

How do they do it? The Washington, D.C. way, of course. Their companies shell out tens of millions in campaign contributions to members of Congress and employ scores of lobbyists to ensure that corporate tax loopholes stay in place, allowing the CEO's big paychecks, and their companies to pay little, if any taxes.

Here's what the 25 profiled corporations spent on campaign contributions and lobbying in 2010:

Company, ranked by executive compensation Campaign Conributions/Lobbying Expenditures
Stanley Black & Decker $260,000
Ford $6,744,051
Chesapeake Energy $3,535,101
Aon $427,676
Bank of New York Mellon $2,256,689
Coca-Cola Enterprises $1,472,795
Verizon $18,702,392
Dow Chemical $8,666,019
Prudential Financial $9,274,330
Ameriprise $2,316,322
Honeywell $12,732,886
General Electric $41,814,642
Allegheny Technologies $84,513
Mylan Laboratories $2,543,768
Capital One Financial $2,440,875
Wynn Resorts Ltd. $152,400
Marsh & McLennan $1,162,397
Boeing 20,814,348
Motorola Solutions $3,895,121
Nabors Industries $180,000
Qwest Communications $3,947,948
Cablevision Systems $721,600
Motorola Mobility $0
eBay $$1,927,900
International Paper $4,600,018
Totals $150,673,791

And $129,014,624 of that total was spent on lobbying alone.

Is it any wonder why so many Americans are outraged every time corporate earnings are announced and when the next round of multi-million dollar CEO bonuses are handed out? And they have every right to be. Workers wages have remained stagnant for years now, while the folks writing the campaign checks have been getting fat and happy. Congress listens to the people who fill the campaign coffers, not regular Americans who can't write big checks, and continue to struggle in a bad economy.

The so-called "supercommittee" charged with deficit reduction is about to begin its work, and closing the kind of corporate tax loopholes that these industries take full advantage of would be a great place to start. But, and there's a big but, this committee is about to be showered with campaign cash and see a lobbying blitz from corporate and special interests the likes of which we've never seen. Many of whom are identified in this study.

The middle class is already suffering in this economy, and the supercommittee could be poised to make further cuts to the social safety net in the name of deficit reduction. Maybe if these members spent more time with their constituents who feel left out of the game, and less time with the people gaming the system, we'd see a balanced approach. That remains to be seen, but the middle class shouldn't hold their breath. Corporate lobbyists are already busy sucking all the air out of the room.