Just Do It

It’s not everyday that one sees a corporation exert its dominance over government as openly and brazenly as Nike did to Oregon Governor Kitzhaber and the legislature this week. From The Oregonian:

Turmoil over Nike’s taxes surfaced Monday when Kitzhaber made a surprise announcement that he was ordering lawmakers into an “extraordinary” special session with four-days’ notice. He said he was motivated to act fast after being approached by Nike officials who were asking for greater tax certainty before proceeding with a major expansion.

Nike got the guarantees it wanted. Kitzhaber defended the policy by citing figures regarding the corporation’s economic impact — figures provided by Nike without verification:

In speeches and press releases, Kitzhaber and Nike representatives claimed that the company offers an average annual compensation of $100,000 to its employees and that employment in Oregon has grown 60 percent since 2007. Kitzhaber, citing a Nike economic analysis, said the company’s expansion could trigger up to 12,000 direct and indirect jobs and a $2 billion-a-year boost to the state economy.

Those numbers were repeated by supportive lawmakers on Friday, although Nike has not provided data to back up those claims. The company has declined to release the economic report done by AECOM.

Kitzhaber’s spokesman, Tim Raphael, said that the office took the figures from fact sheets provided by Nike, without any independent verification. Nike refused requests from The Oregonian for evidence or context regarding the figures.

The tax deal doesn’t change anything in the short term, but it’s a sign of a sick relationship between the state and large corporations.