Investors Press for Disclosure of Political Spending: Please Vote for Resolutions

Last week, investors announced  filing shareholder resolutions at more than 50 corporations as part of a 2013 proxy season initiative asking companies to annually report their federal and state lobbying, including any payments to trade associations used for lobbying as well as support for tax-exempt organizations that write and endorse model legislation.

Take Action: In his Citizens United dissent, Justice Stevens argued  the law should protect shareholders from funding speech they oppose. The majority, however, argued that ownership of corporate stock was voluntary. Unhappy shareholders could simply sell off their shares if they did not agree with the corporation’s speech. Both assumed shareowners know how our corporations are spending our money. We don’t. I hope you will print out the list of companies where resolutions have been filed (see below) and will join with me, voting in favor of these resolutions on any proxies where you can.

The resolution filers believe that shareholders need better, more complete disclosure of how companies in which they invest use resources to affect both elections and legislation. The lobbying disclosure initiative is a natural extension of ongoing shareholder efforts for greater corporate political spending transparency and accountability. Specifically, enhanced lobbying disclosure will enable shareholders to better evaluate whether a company’s lobbying expenditures and actions advance the company’s interests and do not present risks to company value.

A recent report by the US SIF Foundation found that disclosure of lobbying and political spending has emerged as the “greatest single concern of shareholders among environmental and social issues,” with more than 100 resolutions being filed annually on the subject in 2011 and 2012. Reflecting investors’ interest in enhanced disclosure, the S.E.C. announced on Dec. 21, 2012, that it is considering a rule to require public companies to disclose their spending on politics and lobbying.

While the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and the unprecedented amount of political spending in the 2012 elections have attracted a great deal of media attention, company expenditures on federal lobbying far exceed political election contributions by approximately a nine-to-one ratio. A 2011 study by Si2, funded by the IRRC Institute, found that in 2010, S&P 500 companies spent a total of $1.1 billion on political contributions and lobbying, of which $979.3 million was spent on federal lobbying. These figures do not include state level lobbying expenditures by companies, where there is incomplete disclosure and yearly spending exceeds $1 billion.

Moreover, lobbying by trade associations is indirectly supported by corporate contributions that are substantial and largely unreported. For example the Chamber of Commerce spent more than $500 million on lobbying since 2009, making it the country’s largest lobbying spender. The majority of companies do not disclose the portions of their trade association payments used for lobbying. These payments can create reputational risks for companies. Lobbying disclosure proponents believe companies need to manage these risks by assessing whether their memberships in trade associations accurately represent their corporate interests and policy positions, and that shareholders need to understand their companies’ expenditures for trade association lobbying and the risks they might represent.

The resolutions therefore also ask companies to disclose support for and membership in tax-exempt organizations that write and endorse model legislation, which includes the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC approved model legislation based on Florida’s Stand Your Ground law that gained national attention after the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin. In response to investor and grassroots pressure, 42 companies, including Amgen, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft, McDonald’s, Pepsi, Walgreens and Yum! Brands, evaluated the risk to their corporate reputations, compared to the benefits, of continuing membership, and made the decision to leave ALEC.

Thomas DiNapoli, comptroller of the state of New York and an active proponent of corporate disclosure of both political spending and lobbying, stated, “As a fiduciary, it’s important that companies in which the New York State Common Retirement Fund invest are open, transparent and demonstrate high standards of governance.” Mr. DiNapoli’s office oversees the $133.8 billion state fund. “Thus we have joined once again in 2013 filing resolutions urging companies to report to their investors about their lobbying priorities, oversight and corporate dollars spent.”

Lee Saunders, president of AFSCME and chair of the AFSCME Employees Pension Plan’s Pension Committee, stated, “These proposals are based on the simple principle that what gets disclosed gets managed. Corporate payments for lobbying are a use of shareholder assets. Disclosure will help ensure these expenditures are in the company and shareholders’ best interest.”

Timothy Smith, director of environmental, social and governance (ESG) shareowner engagement at Walden Asset Management and one of the coordinators of this initiative, stated,

Over the last six years, investors increasingly have urged companies to disclose their spending aimed at influencing elections. This year investors have once again taken a logical next step and asked companies to disclose their direct and indirect lobbying activities. Whether the issue is environmental impact, consumer protection, financial reform or shareholder rights, it is important for investors to understand how company dollars are spent to influence our laws and regulations by lobbying activities. While many companies have modest government affairs budgets, others spend tens of millions of dollars annually on lobbying directly and through trade associations. In addition, many companies work through lobbying organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to influence legislation and regulation at the state level. We believe it is timely and appropriate for companies to be much more transparent.

More than 60 investors joined in filing and co-filing the resolution seeking comprehensive disclosure of corporate lobbying, among them are the AFL-CIO; the AFSCME Employees Pension Plan; Benedictine Sisters of Virginia; Boston Common Asset Management; Christopher Reynolds Foundation; CtW Investment Group; Dignity Health; First Affirmative Financial Network; Green Century Funds; Mercy Investments; Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate; Nathan Cummings; Needmor Fund; New York State Common Retirement Fund; Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order; Responsible Endowments Coalition; Sisters of St. Francis; Trillium Asset Management; UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust; Unitarian Universalist Association; United Steelworkers and Walden Asset Management. This unique investor network is organized by the AFSCME Employees Pension Plan and Walden Asset Management, a division of Boston Trust & Investment Management Company.

Specifically, the resolution asks for disclosure of:

  1. Company policy and procedures governing lobbying, including that done on our company’s behalf by trade associations.
  2. Payments used for lobbying as well as grassroots lobbying communications.
  3. Membership in and payments to any tax-exempt organization that writes and endorses model legislation.
  4. Decision-making processes and oversight by management and the Board.

Among companies receiving lobbying disclosure resolutions for 2013 are:

  • 3M (MMM)
  • Abbott Laboratories (ABT)
  • Accenture (ACN)
  • Allergan (AGN)
  • Alliance One International (AOI)
  • Alliant Techsystems (ATK)
  • Allstate (ALL)
  • Altria Group (MO)
  • American Electric Power (AEP)
  • AT&T (T)
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY)
  • Chevron (CVX)
  • Cigna (CI)
  • Citigroup -C-
  • ConocoPhillips (COP)
  • Corrections Corporation of America (CXW)
  • CVS Caremark (CVS)
  • DaVita (DAV)
  • Devon Energy (DVN)
  • Dupont (DD)
  • EBay Inc. (EBAY)
  • Endo Health Solutions (ENDP)
  • Entergy (ETR)
  • Equity Lifestyle Properties (ELS)
  • ExxonMobil Corporation (XOM)
  • General Dynamics (GD)
  • GEO Group (GEO)
  • Goldman Sachs (GS)
  • IBM (IBM)
  • JPMorgan Chase (JPM)
  • Lockheed Martin (LMT)
  • Lorillard (LO)
  • Marathon Oil (MRO)
  • Norfolk Southern Corporation (NSC)
  • Northrop Grumman (NOC)
  • Nucor Corporation (NUE)
  • Peabody Energy (BTU)
  • PepsiCo (PEP)
  • Pfizer (PFE)
  • Philip Morris (PM)
  • Reynolds American (RAI)
  • SLM Corporation (Sallie Mae) (SLM)
  • Time Warner Cable (TWC)
  • Union Pacific (UNP)
  • United Parcel Service (UPS)
  • UnitedHealth Group (UNH)
  • Universal Corporation (UVV)
  • Verizon Communications (VZ)
  • VISA U.S.A. (V)
  • Walgreen (WAG)
  • Wells Fargo (WFC)
  • WellPoint (WLP)
  • Xcel Energy (XEL) 

Filers of Lobbying Disclosure Resolutions

Pension Funds

  • New York State Common Retirement Fund

 Labor

  • AFSCME Employees Pension Plan
  • AFL-CIO
  • CTW Investment Group
  • Service Employees International Union
  • UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust
  • United Steelworkers

Asset Management Companies

  • Boston Common Asset Management
  • First Affirmative Financial Network
  • Green Century Funds
  • Jantz Morgan
  • PAX World Fund
  • Sustainability Group, Loring Wolcott & Coolidge
  • Trillium Asset Management
  • Walden Asset Management
  • Zevin Asset Management

Foundations

  • Brainerd Foundation
  • Center for Community Change, Washington, DC
  • Edward W. Hazen Foundation
  • The Funding Exchange
  • Haymarket Foundation
  • Lemmon Foundation
  • LKMC Aquinas Funds
  • Max and Anna Levinson Foundation
  • Merck Family Fund
  • Nathan Cummings Foundation
  • Needmor Fund
  • Oneida Tribe of Indians Trust Fund
  • Oxfam America
  • Responsible Endowments Coalition
  • Christopher Reynolds Foundation
  • Russell Family Foundation
  • Swift Family Foundation
  • Tides Foundation

Non-Profit Institutional Investors

  • Manhattan Country School

Religious Filers

  • Benedictine Sisters of Baltimore
  • Benedictine Sisters of Virginia
  • Catholic Health East
  • Catholic Health Initiatives
  • Community Church of New York
  • Congregation of Benedictine Sisters, Boerne, Texas
  • Congregation of Divine Providence, San Antonio, Texas
  • Congregation of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Paul Province
  • Congregation of the Sisters of St. Agnes
  • Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brighton
  • Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Indiana
  • Convent Academy of the Incarnate Word
  • Dignity Health
  • First Parish Unitarian Church, Cambridge, Ma.
  • Glenmary Home Missioners
  • Marianist Province of the United States
  • Mercy Investment Services
  • Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
  • Monasterio Pan Vida
  • Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order
  • School Sisters of Notre Dame
  • Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, New Jersey
  • Sisters of the Holy Family
  • Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Boston
  • Sisters of Notre Dame
  • Sisters of Providence, Mother Joseph Providence
  • Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia
  • Sisters of St. Francis, Academy of Our Lady of Lourdes, Rochester
  • Trinity Health
  • Unitarian Universalist Association
  • Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
  • United Church Foundation

Individuals

  • Daniel Altschuler
  • Gwendolen Noyes
  • Gun Denhart
  • Carol Master

See also Corporations Agree to Disclose Political Spending on SocialFunds.com.

, , , , , ,

Comments are closed.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes