You can hardly open a Web site or watch a television show these days without stumbling over some warm and fuzzy image commercial from GE Capital. And GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt, recall, is the chairman of President Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. So it's interesting to see the Securities and Exchange Commission choose the Friday before Christmas to issue news of a $70.35 million settlement in a civil case in which, the SEC press release says, the SEC "charged GE Funding Capital Market Services with securities fraud for participating in a wide-ranging scheme involving the reinvestment of proceeds from the sale of municipal securities."
GE is a company so big that it's probably not really fair to hold Mr. Immelt accountable for everything that happens there. And not every decision by a company to settle an enforcement case with the government means the company did anything wrong to begin with. Even so, the past three years have seen GE's settlement of another SEC case, as well as a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act case.
Can you imagine if a Republican administration had a chairman of the president's council on jobs and competitiveness whose company had, in three years running, a $50 million SEC settlement, a $23.4 million SEC settlement, and a $70.35 million SEC settlement? The press would be going crazy about it. Yet for some reason — maybe because GE used to control NBC and still has a minority stake, or maybe because corrupt businessman fits the stereotype of a Republican better than the stereotype of a Democrat, or maybe because of that lavish advertising budget mentioned earlier — Mr. Immelt and Mr. Obama have gotten pretty much of a pass on this stuff, with the exceptions of Timothy Carney, Matt Drudge, and Glenn Beck.