CHICAGO – As U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin declared victory Wednesday for Walgreen Co.'s decision to keep its headquarters in Illinois, Republican businessman Jim Oberweis accused him of "bullying," saying the Senate's second-ranking Democrat deserved scorn — not praise – for his efforts.
"His bullying of (Walgreen) was a political stunt designed to help only one person: Dick Durbin," said Oberweis, a state senator and dairy magnate trying to unseat Durbin on Nov. 4. "It didn't create any jobs. It didn't reform our job-killing tax code."
Durbin led the effort to stop Deerfield-based Walgreen from relocating its headquarters to Switzerland to reduce its U.S. taxes, warning its CEO in a letter last month that the company may find its customers are "deeply patriotic and will not support Walgreen's decision to turn its back on the United States."
He also sponsored legislation to stop American companies that incorporate overseas from getting federal contracts, asked President Barack Obama to sign an executive order to make the practice more difficult and started an online petition he said generated more than 19,000 signatures.
Walgreen announced Wednesday it would stay headquartered in Deerfield, Illinois, saying it was "mindful of the ongoing public reaction."
"We won!" Durbin said an email to campaign supporters a few hours later.
"It's important for our country to grow, and the way it grows is when great corporations like Walgreen's stay here and build from the ground up," Durbin said.
His campaign spokesman, Ron Holmes, said "Only Jim Oberweis and the Swiss government would scorn today's job announcement."
Oberweis and other Republicans, including gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, have argued the practice known as "inversion" is a signal that Illinois and the U.S. need to reduce tax rates to be more competitive. They say doing so would help keep companies in the state and create new jobs, and note companies are under pressure from investors to maximize profit.
"The right answer is not to create walls, to block companies and people," Rauner told Chicago's WMAQ-TV last week. "... We should be about freedom, choice and competition."
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who is seeking his second full term, condemned the growing trend as "unpatriotic."
He told reporters Wednesday that he spoke to Walgreen Co. CEO Greg Wasson after the decision was made. He called it a good move and said he would shop at the drug store later in the day, as he does almost every day.
Walgreen, the nation's largest drugstore chain, has been based in Illinois for more than a century.