Dem Wants to Fund Highways by Punishing Tax Dodgers

Peters personally profits from tax dodging

Gary Peters
Gary Peters / AP
September 11, 2014

Michigan Democrat Gary Peters says that punishing companies engaged in tax inversions can help boost transportation spending, despite his lucrative investments in some of those companies.

Peters responded to Republican nominee Terri Lynn Land’s proposal to slash the gas tax in order to boost state control over transportation funds, by saying that he would instead crack down on inversions to boost federal tax collection. That money, he told the AP, would then be deposited into the Highway Transportation Fund.

He has not said whether he would deposit his own profits from tax inversions to benefit the nation’s infrastructure.

Peters, a three-term Democratic congressman, invested between $15,000 and $50,000 in Medtronic, America’s second largest medical device company, according to his 2013 financial disclosures. In June Medtronic purchased an Irish-based company in order to move $14 billion overseas, which will save the company millions in taxes.

He also purchased between $200 and $1,000 worth of American healthcare company AbbVie Inc., which also plans to outsource its headquarters to dodge America’s high corporate tax rate.

The Peters campaign did not return request for comment.

The Land campaign said that Peters’ investment activities demonstrate his own hypocrisy on the issue, while accusing the congressman of dodging serious policy discussions about highway funding.

"Gary Peters didn't have a plan to fix Michigan roads so he decided to attack Terri for having a plan under the guise of inversion, but Gary Peters is invested in companies that practice inversion," Land spokesman Heather Swift said in a statement.

The gas tax has given the federal government overwhelming control over highway funds by withdrawing money from residents in exchange for distributing money to states. Land’s proposal would allow more decisions to be made at the local level and has been praised by conservatives.

"Terri Lynn Land is doing exactly what candidates all across the country should be doing. She is talking about bold ideas that empower states and individuals, not Washington special interests," Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham said in an August statement. "Returning transportation authority to the state will benefit Michigan motorists, families and businesses."

Peters’ portfolio has caused him several headaches in recent months.

He has invested thousands in a French oil giant that produces pet coke, an oil byproduct that Peters has called a deadly pollutant. He also owns profitable Detroit water bonds at a time when the utility is cutting off service to poor residents behind on their bills. Land has called on him to return or donate those profits, while Peters has remained silent.

Swift said that Peters’ behavior raises questions about his priorities and principles.

"Congressman Gary Peters' hypocrisy is almost as long as the list of Michigan jobs he's voted to kill in order to appease Harry Reid and radical billionaire Tom Steyer," Swift said in a statement. "No matter what Gary Peters says he can't be trusted because he will say anything and stands for nothing."