What’s Good for Jeffrey Immelt is Good for America

Joseph Lawler
The American Spectator

On April 22, 2009, GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt entered a raging controversy at the University of Notre Dame surrounding an upcoming commencement speech by Barack Obama with an op-ed in, of all places, the Notre Dame Observer.

Without addressing any of the issues in contention, namely Obama’s pro-choice policies and the school’s obligations as a Catholic institution, the article expressed Immelt’s wholehearted support for Obama and his upcoming speech. What made the article so odd, beside the apparent cluelessness of the author, was that the CEO of GE felt it necessary to add his opinion to an argument involving Notre Dame. Immelt is not a Notre Dame alumnus (he went to Dartmouth), he doesn’t have affiliations with the university other than a commencement speech he gave in 2007, and he’s not Catholic. One would think that the CEO of one of the largest companies in America would have better things to do than writing an op-ed for a student newspaper picking sides in an essentially intra-denominational controversy. So why would Immelt weigh in?

Had the Observer provided the most routine of disclosures for that article, the answer would have been obvious. On February 17th of that year, Obama had signed the stimulus bill, which included $24.9 million in grants that would flow directly to GE, with roughly $20 billion more slated for health care record modernization of the kind that GE specializes in — “with a direct request to do so from GE’s CEO Jeffrey Immelt.” Months before, during the Bush administration, GE had successfully lobbied “behind-the-scenes” to get its financing arm, GE Capital, included in a FDIC bailout program that would insure up to $139 billion of its debt. By the time Obama stepped on stage at Notre Dame, GE Capital had used the program to raise “$74 billion, helping to cover [GE’S] 2009 funding needs, and about $8 billion of its projected needs for 2010.” In addition, Immelt knew that many billions more would accrue to his company through its green initiatives if Obama’s cap and trade proposal became law.

It would be hard to think up a more direct conflict of interest.

Except, of course, for the conflict of interest raised by Obama’s decision, announced today, to name Immelt the chair of the new President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness while Immelt still serves as GE’s CEO…A post in the Obama administration presents a huge opportunity to enrich his company and himself…

Read the rest at The American Spectator.

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