Twelve prominent CEOs, many of whom have warned against the dangers of raising taxes on those making over $250,000 and creating more economic uncertainty, met with President Barack Obama on Wednesday to discuss the looming fiscal cliff.
There were no CEOs from defense-related industries at the meeting, even though sequestration will occur if no deal is reached on the budget during Congress’s lame-duck session.
The group included prominent donors to Democrats and Republicans. Three of the attendees — General Electric’s Jeffrey Immelt, Xerox’s Ursula Burns, and American Express’s Kenneth Chenault — are on Obama’s Jobs Council, which Immelt chairs.
General Electric donated nearly $500,000 to Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008; the company was rewarded with taxpayer-funded bailouts. General Electric also used to own MSNBC, the pro-Obama cable station that also acts as his rapid response outlet.
Chenault, of American Express, has donated the maximum amount allowed to Obama’s Victory Fund and $50,000 to Obama’s inaugural fund. He has also donated to candidates like Hillary Clinton and Rick Santorum.
Other prominent Obama donors who attended the meeting include Ursula Burns of Xerox, who gave $2,500 to Obama, and Andrew Liveris of Dow Chemical, who gave $5,000 during the 2012 cycle. Burns was also part of Obama’s 2008 inaugural committee. Liveris donated to Romney and John McCain during the 2008 election.
Indra Nooyi, of PepsiCo Inc., has donated exclusively to Democrats, as has her husband.
Prominent Republican donors who attended the meeting include Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, John Watson of Chevron (who donated to the Republican Senatorial Committee), David Cote of Honeywell International, Mike Duke of Wal-Mart, and Robert McDonald of Procter & Gamble (who donated to Romney’s campaing in 2012).
Bertolini and groups affiliated with Aetna have donated millions to Republican-leaning groups. Bertolini has said Aetna may have to lay off workers or enact a hiring freeze due to economic uncertainty if Obama and Republicans do not reach a deal on the budget.
Duke, of Wal-Mart, and Cote, of Honeywell, have donated heavily to Republicans in the past.
Alan Mulally, of Ford Motor Company, has previously donated to Democrats like Sen. Carl Levin and Rep. John Dingell, but Romney received the most money from Ford’s political action committee during the last election cycle. Ginni Rometty, IBM’s CEO, also attended the meeting.
Cote, Honeywell’s CEO, emphasized the importance of economic certainty and avoiding the fiscal cliff, accusing economists of underestimating the recession that would result from failing to do so.
“If the last debt ceiling discussion was playing with fire, this time they’re playing with nitroglycerin,” Cote said in an interview this week. “If they go off the cliff, I think it would spark a recession that’s a lot bigger than economists think. Some think it would just be a small fire. I think it could turn into a conflagration.”