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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher March 9, 2016

Wisconsin firm moving overseas 'begged taxpayers for a bailout' and got one, Hillary Clinton says

Hillary Clinton stood outside of Johnson Controls Inc. when she cut a TV spot that attacks the suburban Milwaukee-based global firm.    

"This is Johnson Controls," Clinton says in the ad, which was posted to YouTube on Feb. 21, 2016. "When the auto industry was going under, car parts companies like them begged taxpayers for a bailout and they got one."

Did the company beg for a bailout -- and get one?


And no.

Prior attack

Clinton’s claim in the ad, which was aired in the Duluth TV market ahead of the March 1, 2016 presidential caucuses in Minnesota, might sound familiar.

A couple weeks earlier, at a debate in New Hampshire with her rival for the Democratic nomination, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the former secretary of state said:

"We bailed out" Johnson Controls Inc. when "we saved the auto industry" and "now they want to avoid paying taxes."

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The world's leading maker of car batteries, and a manufacturer of heating and cooling equipment and controls, was not a direct recipient of the federal bailouts of the auto industry. But Johnson Controls did push for the funds. And as Clinton indicated, the company has said it will save $150 million per year in taxes by moving its headquarters to Ireland.

So we gave Clinton a Mostly True for her claim in the debate.

But her claim in the TV ad isn’t as much on target.

In 2008, of course, the entire auto industry was in very bad shape as the recession took hold. Layoffs at auto plants and among auto parts suppliers were on track to reach 250,000 workers. General Motors was virtually out of cash to pay its bills and Chrysler was not far behind.

That December, President George W. Bush used $17.6 billion in TARP money to keep GM and Chrysler afloat. And in 2009, President Barack Obama continued the rescue of the two automakers that was financed with about $80 billion in taxpayer money, about $70 billion of which was repaid.

But Johnson Controls was in much better condition. It certainly would've taken a major financial hit had the automakers gone under. But it did not directly receive any bailout funds.

(The bailout money went to General Motors Corp., Chrysler LLC and auto lending arms Ally Financial Inc. and Chrysler Financial.)

Our rating

In a TV ad, Clinton said: "When the auto industry was going under, car parts companies like" Johnson Controls "begged taxpayers for a bailout, and they got one."

The company did push Congress to approve the 2008-’09 federal bailout of the auto makers. But it did not itself get a bailout.

We rate Clinton’s statement Half True.

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Wisconsin firm moving overseas 'begged taxpayers for a bailout' and got one, Hillary Clinton says

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