FORTUNE -- Tim Cook is coming to Washington next week, summoned by the same Senate subcommittee that blasted Microsoft (MSFT) and Hewlett Packard (HPQ) last fall for funneling U.S. profits overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes on them.
But Apple's (AAPL) CEO -- whose company famously keeps $102 billion in profits in overseas accounts -- is ready for battle, and he softened the ground Thursday with a pair strategically targeted interviews.
He told Politico -- the most-read blog inside the Beltway -- that he's not going to let the subcommittee blacken Apple's image with the same brush it tarred HP and Microsoft.
"I can tell you unequivocally Apple does not funnel its domestic profits overseas. We don't do that. We pay taxes on all the products we sell in the U.S., and we pay every dollar that we owe."
He told the Washington Post that Apple paid $6 billion in federal taxes last year and is on track to pay $7 billion this year.
"You may not know this, but Apple likely is the largest corporate taxpayer in the U.S.," he said. "When you combine state and federal, Apple is paying approximately $1 million an hour in just domestic income taxes."
And who hasn't Cook talked to -- at least not yet? The New York Times, the other Beltway must-read paper. The Times won a Pulitzer Prize for a controversial series last year that took what Cook clearly felt were unfair pot shots at Apple.
"We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain," he wrote in a memo to Apple employees after the Times accused Apple of heartlessly exploiting Asian factory workers. "Any suggestion that we don't care is patently false and offensive to us. As you know better than anyone, accusations like these are contrary to our values. It's not who we are."
Speaking of unfair pot shots, I'm looking forward to Cook's questioning by Tom Coburn, the junior senator from Oklahoma who told the hosts of MSNBC's Morning Joe last year that the Times' account of Apple's tax strategies made him see red:
"I'm livid about that," he said. "We have a tax code. Why should Apple pay at 10% and some company that can't export their technology, why are they paying 35%? Let's get rid of the loopholes."
Yet when asked about a repatriation tax holiday -- a one-time bring-your-cash-home-for-free card that even Cook feels would be unfairly generous to U.S. corporations -- Coburn was all for it. It was priceless video, and we saved it. See Sen. Tom Coburn is 'livid' about Apple's tax loopholes.
Is that really why Apple has become, per Politico, a "punching bag" for lawmakers?
FORTUNE -- I might feel differently about Apple's D.C. Lobbying Effort Has Yet to Ripen, the 1,450-word piece posted on Politico Wednesday, if I hadn't just listened to Take the Money and Run for Office, This America Life's brilliant hour-long expose of how Washington, D.C., influence peddling really works.
By the end of the radio piece (available as a podcast), MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - May 10, 2012 7:01 AM ET
Yet he is prepared to give the company the biggest tax break of them all
FORTUNE -- I don't know what to say about Tom Coburn, the pro-gun, pro-death penalty, anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, Southern Baptist deacon and junior senator from Oklahoma.As a congressman he protested NBC's 1997 broadcast of Schindler's List because its depiction of the Holocaust included "full-frontal nudity, violence and profanity." In 2007 he threatened to block two bills honoring the MORE Philip Elmer-DeWitt - May 2, 2012 11:06 AM ET
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