MILWAUKEE (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took her sharp criticism of Johnson Controls Inc. and her portrayal of the auto parts maker as a tax evader from the debate stage to the airwaves Tuesday.
The Clinton campaign began airing a new television spot in the Duluth, Minnesota, market that says the suburban Milwaukee manufacturer benefited from the federal bailout of the auto industry and is now moving its headquarters to Ireland as part of its merger with Tyco International. Such a move, she says, "shirks" its tax liability in the U.S.
"Now that Johnson is back on their feet, they're gaming the system and moving their profits to Ireland so they can avoid paying taxes here at home," Clinton said in the ad shot outside the manufacturer's Glendale offices. Clinton claimed the merged company will save $150 million in taxes by moving its headquarters to Cork, Ireland.
Johnson Controls said in a statement it "did not request or receive aid from the government during the financial crisis. Nor did it declare bankruptcy or seek other means of protection like many of its competitors and other suppliers did at the time."
The company said the merger with Tyco is simply the next step in its global growth. The automotive sector of Johnson Controls, one of Wisconsin's largest companies, had $20 billion in sales last year.
Minnesota is among states holding presidential preference votes on March 1, so-called Super Tuesday.
Clinton had first leveled her criticism of Johnson Controls in a Feb. 4 debate in New Hampshire, portraying the company as a tax evader. She claims that in the past decade, nearly 50 U.S. companies have chosen to be technically based in a foreign country, "saving billions of dollars in taxes through these so-called inversions and related transactions."
In 2008, Johnson Controls executive Keith Wandell was asked by the Senate Banking Committee to testify on behalf of the automotive supply chain on proposed government support to U.S. automakers, who were struggling as a result of the financial crisis, according to the company. Wandell urged Congress to support the automakers, saying the failure of even one of them would have devastating consequences for many U.S. suppliers.
This story has been corrected to show Clinton ad says Johnson Controls benefited from auto industry bailout, rather than took the bailout.