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Wednesday, December 6

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The Mechanics
« Bright Ideas Delivered to GE Board Member Bank of America Ignores Citizen Tax Enforcers »

Chicago Wed Apr 04 2012

Tax Enforcers Crash CME Emeritus Event with Tax Bill

The "99% Citizen Tax Enforcers" visited Evanston yesterday afternoon to present Chicago Mercantile Exchange Chairman Emeritus Leo Melamed with a tax bill and message. The group hoped Melamed would take it to the current chair, Terrence Duffy.

Melamed was a featured speaker on the Northwestern campus and invited to the ribbon-cutting ceremony of a new "trading room" in the Business Institutions Program. The enforcers did not have the opportunity to see Melamed but the bill did successfully enter the building as someone inside grabbed it in order to close the door.

The exchange became the group's second target this week and the first local company. CME and Duffy came under fire after posting $2 billion in profits the prior year yet asking for tax breaks from the state. Actually, it was not really an ask but more so an extortion as Duffy said he would move the company to Indiana if the Illinois legislature did not pass the tax breaks totally about $1 billion over the next decade.

The enforcers once again wore their black suits and carried briefcases while an 8-foot tall puppet of Terrence Duffy followed behind.

On Monday the group attempted to deliver a tax bill to Exelon's board members as they met in the Chase Building in the Chicago Loop. Corporations such as Exelon and CME have used their huge amounts of cash to lobby state and federal officials for better tax rates. A large campaign contribution, $200,000, from CME to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel came prior to his push for the tax breaks that ultimately benefited the company.

Protesters have focused on the exchange over the last few months, resulting in victories for the taxpayers. Stand Up! Chicago and other organizations pushed CME to give back their $15 million in TIF money by publicly shaming the company. It didn't help the exchange's image by being linked to taking money from a cash-strapped city and spending it on luxurious improvements and equating to a golden toilet. The Chicago Tribune recounts the event:

Security guards in black suits stood by expressionless with radios in hand. "We have a situation," one said as protesters chanted, "How do you put folks back to work? Tax, tax, tax the Merc."

After numerous attempts to get Duffy, protesters marched away, leaving the golden toilet with a red ribbon and toilet paper in the lobby. Security scrambled for a few minutes to get maintenance to take the toilet away. A man in a blue uniform ran to the rescue, dropping the tank lid as he raised it.

"Where do you want it?" he asked.

"Anywhere," someone said. Anywhere but the lobby was the undertone.

CME spokesman Michael Shore wouldn't comment on the protest. "However, on the tax issue, the disparity in corporate taxes was debated, discussed and resolved in the state legislature," he wrote in an email.

CME's latest break would cut its tax bill by nearly half when it is fully implemented in the state's 2014 fiscal year. Last year, CME, owner the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade, threatened to leave the state after a tax increase that it said raised its bill to about $158 million in 2011 from about $108 million in 2010.

The state also faces a budget crisis and caved to the company's demands despite needing the revenue. Many believed the threats to leave the city were a bluff. Ultimately, one that legislators did not want to call. Activists still want the company to pay its fair share. A call that makes sense if looking at through the prism of doing well in America means you do well by America.

Originally posted on The Political is Personal.

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