Hillary Clinton’s Corporate Villain Hits Back

The candidate has claimed Johnson Controls took a government bailout and is now seeking a merger to avoid paying taxes. Now the company is saying she’s way off base.

Randall Hill/Reuters

Hillary Clinton’s new corporate villain on the campaign trail, Johnson Controls, fired back Thursday, denying Clinton’s assertion that it had sought out government protection or taken a government bailout.

“Contrary to recent reports and comments, Johnson Controls did not request or receive aid from the government during the financial crisis,” said Fraser Engerman, a spokesman for Johnson Controls. “Nor did it declare bankruptcy or seek other means of protection like many of its competitors and other suppliers did at the time.”

Johnson Controls Inc., a major supplier of auto parts as well as “energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment and control systems for commercial buildings and skyscrapers,” announced Jan. 25 it would merge with Tyco International, an Ireland-based company, in a move that will save it $500 million in taxes in the first three years and take its corporate headquarters from Wisconsin to Ireland.

Clinton brought the merger up during her campaign swing through Iowa this week—and again during a forum on CNN on Wednesday when asked whether voters could trust her to take on Wall Street given that the financial industry is a major donor to her campaign.

Clinton responded that while it was important to keep Wall Street in check—it was “too narrow a target.”

“I think we need to go after a company like Johnson Controls that is trying to avoid paying taxes after all of us bailed it out by pretending to sell itself in a so-called inversion in Europe,” she said. “It’s a perversion. It should be stopped.”

Engerman said the merger with Tyco is “the next step in our journey to grow in the United States and globally, drive innovation, and invest in customer solutions that make buildings smarter, more secure, and more energy-efficient.”

“This merger is motivated by the incredible opportunity to combine the global leader in building controls, HVAC, and energy, with the global leader in fire and security solutions to create the buildings and cities of the future,” he said.

The company lobbied hard for the 2008 auto bailout, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and also received $299 million from the Department of Energy “ to ramp up production of hybrid batteries.”

The company has noted, according to the Journal Sentinel, that it will still be run from Wisconsin, though its operations will be moved abroad.

Clinton as well as her family’s foundation has a history with Johnson Controls.

In June 2015, the company announced it was partnering with the Clinton Global Initiative to help “ the manufacturing sector reduce energy consumption.”

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The company has donated between $100,001 and $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation in 2015 to be used “exclusively for CGI activities such as memberships, sponsorships, and conference fees.”

As a senator, Clinton gave a speech at a forum sponsored by Johnson Controls in 2006 about the U.S. dependence on foreign oil and how it related to national security.

Engerman said the company’s work to improve energy efficiency would only grow with the merger.

“Our aim is to build the best industrial company we can, advance the science of smart buildings and cities, and serve our customers today and tomorrow,” he said. “That’s what this merger is about.”