Ithaca, N.Y. — Earlier this week, Congressional candidate Martha Robertson (D-Dryden) criticized Burger King for seeking a merger with the Canadian company Tim Hortons.

Her opponent Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning) responded by saying in a statement that Robertson should “divest her personal financial interest” in the fast food giant.

What does that “financial interest” consist of?

Robertson and her husband have invested in a TIAA-CREF mutual fund for retirement savings since 1978. Burger King makes up .11 percent of that fund, according to records. There are 2,029 companies in the whole fund.

A spokesperson for Reed said even this level of investment in Burger King makes it hypocritical for Robertson to criticize the company.

“If Martha Robertson was really concerned she would divest her personal financial interest in Burger King,” the spokesperson, Katherine Pudwill, said in an email.

Pudwill said in a follow-up interview with The Voice that the size of Robertson’s financial stake in Burger King was irrelevant.

“Whether it’s small or large, they have interests in the companies they’re calling out,” Pudwill said. “This is an uninformed candidate.”

A reporter pointed out that many people do not know the names of the thousands of companies involved in their retirement accounts.

Pudwill acknowledged this possibility. But she said that Robertson “was not prepared and she’s calling out an argument she’s not fully versed in.”

“So, legally, we can say she has a financial interest in Burger King,” Pudwill said.

Robertson — a Tompkins County legislator running for the 23rd Congressional seat, which includes Ithaca — issued a statement this week calling Burger King “unpatriotic” for seeking the merger with the Canadian Tim Hortons.

“…Burger King is an American company, and it’s downright unpatriotic for them to abandon the country that allowed them to succeed in the first place,” her campaign said in a statement.

Though several prominent left-leaning politicians have criticized Burger King for the move as a tax dodge, the company’s leaders have said this is not the case.

The LA Times, for instance, has provided evidence that Burger King’s decision was not about taxes:

“Burger King’s overall effective tax rate in 2013 was 27.5%, according to its annual report. Tim Hortons effective tax rate for the same year was 26.8%.

… Burger King’s effective tax rate is roughly consistent with the Canadian tax rates.


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.