Archive for the ‘corporate political spending’ Category

Updated Statistics on Political Activity Shareholder Proposal Voting Results

April 24, 2015

A recent opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal asserted that no shareholder proposal on a social or environmental issue has earned a majority vote, presumably counting in this tally those about corporate political activity. This is simply not accurate.

In the last five years alone, 10 proposals about political activity actually have earned support from more than 50 percent of the shares cast for and against; eight of of these votes occurred in 2013 and 2014. Results from the 2015 proxy season are not yet available, but right now investors are set to vote on 68 more proposals–and have already done so at three companies (giving lobbying disclosure proposals 24.5 percent at Monsanto and 39.8 percent at Emerson Electric–and 30.4 percent to a long-running resolution about political spending oversight and disclosure at Emerson).

Attached is a table showing where these votes occurred, as well as –and quite a few more that earned more than 40 percent support. In all, 51 separate votes on these issues since 2010 have garnered support from more than 40 percent of the shares cast.

High Corporate Political Activity Votes, 2010-2014

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Mid-Year 2014 Report on Corporate Political Activity Shareholder Proposals

August 28, 2014

Si2 published for its clients a mid-year report on the record-breaking results from the spring corporate annual meeting season in mid-August, with a detailed analysis of the social and environmental proposals filed during proxy season.  An excerpt from this report that includes information on trends over the last five years and a complete description of all the corporate political activity proposals is now available for download:

Si2 2014 Proxy Season Mid-Year Review – Corporate Political Activity EXCERPT

Corporate Political Spending Shareholder Proposal Results, 2010-14

July 3, 2014

Si2 has compiled a report summarizing the number of shareholder proposals filed in the five-year period 2010-14, and how investors voted on them. The report covers all proposals on corporate political activity, including direct and indirect lobbying and electoral spending and related issues, at all U.S. companies.

The report may be of interest to those debating the petition before the SEC that requests a rulemaking on mandatory corporate political spending disclosure in securities filings by U.S. companies.

View the report here:

Corporate Political Activity Shareholder Proposals, 2010-2014, as of 7-2-14

 

DISCLOSE Act Statement for Senate Rules Committee Hearing 3-29-12

March 28, 2012

In collaboration with the IRRC Institute, Si2 submitted a statement for the record to the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, regarding the committee’s consideration of the DISCLOSE Act of 2012. The statement begins:

In the wake of the landmark Citizens United Supreme Court decision, numerous organizations are providing input on the highly contentious policy debate regarding the disclosure of political expenditures. As the Committee examines each side of the debate and potential legislation, we believe an important element of the decision making process is a careful examination of neutral, nonpartisan data on what companies actually are doing with regard to disclosure of political expenditures. The full statement is attached here: FINAL Statement to S Rules March 2012

Attached to the statement is the November 2011 Si2/IRRC study, Corporate Governance of Political Expenditures – 2011 Benchmark for SP500.

Proxy Preview 2012: Energy and Politics

February 28, 2012

FEB. 28, 2012: Si2 released today Proxy Preview 2012, a comprehensive look at all the shareholder resolutions filed for the spring corporate annual meeting season, in collaboration with As You Sow and Proxy Impact. The report includes a collection of viewpoints from investor proponents of the resolutions and profiles of key players. It finds that political spending proposals now account for one-third of all social and environmental filings, about even with environmental and sustainability proposals. Key environmental issues raised include coal risks and the community impacts of hydraulic fracturing.

The full report is available for free download on the As You Sow website.

Executive Director Heidi Welsh was interviewed by NPR’s political money reporter, Peter Overby, on Morning Edition, in a story that also featured SEC Commissioner Luis Aguilar, Allen Dickerson of the Center for Competitive Politics, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Bruce Freed of the Center for Political Accountability. Listen to the story here.

Update on P&G and political spending policy

October 7, 2011

On Oct. 6, 2011 Procter & Gamble filed an amendment to its 2011 proxy statement . According to the update, Proctor & Gamble reiterates its stance that the company “has not used, and has no plans to use, corporate funds to support direct political expenditures to influence federal elections for office, nor to make contributions to trade association or other groups for that purpose.” Procter & Gamble goes on to state that “While this is our general policy even at the state or local level, we have occasionally permitted, based on exceptions approved by our Public Policy Team, contributions to groups that may use the funds to influence state or local elections for office.” In that vein, the company’s Public Policy Team approved a $40,000 contribution to Partnership for Ohio’s Future – a group that “provided educational materials regarding Ohio’s judicial elections and expressed support for two judicial contests.”

According to documents filed with the Ohio Secretary of State, the group spent $1.57 million on independent expenditures for two candidates on the ballot for the Ohio Supreme Court. Under Ohio law, the Partnership for Ohio’s Future was not required to disclose the contributions, but did so voluntarily. In addition, the group is not required to disclose its donors, since independent expenditures are exempted from the donor reporting requirements to which most electioneering communications are subject.

Procter & Gamble discloses the contribution in its 2010 Corporate Contributions to Ballot Initiative or Issue Advocacy. However, in the disclosures, the Partnership for Ohio’s Future is described as a 501(c)(4) group that was formed by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce whose purpose is “to push for public policies that lead to greater opportunities and a higher quality of life for Ohio citizens. The Partnership encourages the public to learn about the issues and elections that impact Ohio’s economy.” No mention is made by Procter & Gamble of any candidate support or candidate advocacy provided by the group.

Since the Partnership for Ohio’s Future is a 501(c)(4) group, the contribution is technically not in conflict with stated company policy to “not use corporate funds to support 527 organizations or candidates in states where it is legally permissible to do so.” However, shareholders will need to decide if contributions to 501(c)(4) groups like the Partnership of Ohio’s Future are violating the spirit, if not the letter, of company policy since the money donated to certain groups is being used to support candidates at the state and local level while the company’s public policy position generally forbids any such involvement.

Corporate Political Spending Governance Study Release Today

October 14, 2010

STUDY FINDS 86% OF S&P 500 COMPANIES HAVE NOT DISCLOSED INDIRECT POLITICAL EXPENDITURE POLICIES, ONLY 20% DISCLOSE SPENDING

First Comprehensive Political Spending Governance Analysis Finds Few Boards Engaged in Oversight Despite Potential Corporate Risks

NEW YORK, NY, October 14, 2010 – A new study finds that while nearly 80 percent of S&P 500 companies have disclosed direct political campaign spending policies, 86 percent have no disclosed policies regarding indirect political expenditures. Additionally, only 20 percent of corporations disclose to investors how much is actually spent and which organizations or causes receive the funds.

These findings are contained in a report issued today by the Investor Responsibility Research Center (IRRC) Institute and the Sustainable Investments Institute (Si2) entitled, “How Companies Influence Elections: Political Campaign Spending Patterns and Oversight at America’s Largest Companies.” It is the first comprehensive report to benchmark the governance of corporate political spending, which has proven contentious for companies as varied as News Corp. and Target Corp. The study comes against the backdrop of the landmark Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Supreme Court decision that lifted key restrictions on corporate political spending and opened up an unprecedented flow of millions of dollars – increasingly from indirect spending – into elections.

“Shareholders are demanding increased political spending disclosure to inject greater oversight, accountability and transparency into campaign spending to protect their investments,” said Heidi Welsh, report co-author and executive director of Si2. “The recent controversy and boycotts surrounding Target’s indirect political expenditures are a vivid illustration of the serious reputational and financial risks companies and investors can face when there is not rigorous oversight and disclosure of contributions. A company that doesn’t pay attention can find itself supporting groups or paying trade associations that work against its stated public policy positions, raising many questions for shareholders and the public. In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, companies have even more latitude and fewer restrictions, which should be a wake up call to investors,” Welsh stated.

“The findings indicate that corporations are falling short on political expenditure governance,” said Jon Lukomnik, IRRC Institute program director. “It’s encouraging that 80 percent of the S&P 500 have disclosed political campaign policies. But that’s where the good news stops. Political expenditures of corporate assets typically lack board oversight, and lack transparency with regard to the expenditure processes and gatekeepers to that corporate money. More importantly, few companies typically have policies disclosing the amounts and recipients of indirect expenditures — such as to trade groups and other organizations — which have become increasingly controversial. In practice, the existing disclosures may be of less use than they would appear because investors cannot determine how much of their money is actually being spent, or where it is going,” Lukomnik said.

The IRRC Institute commissioned this study to take a comprehensive look at the governance of political spending. It was conducted as a non-partisan and non-advocacy manner, favoring no political party and with no position as to the legitimacy of corporate political spending. Rather, the study is intended to provide investors, policy makers, corporate decision makers, and thought leaders with baseline data on corporate political expenditure governance.

The key research findings include:

• Nearly 80 percent of the S&P 500 companies have disclosed political campaign spending policies. However, only a distinct minority has stand-alone policies that are easily accessible and with clear descriptions of spending decision making and oversight. The publicly available language that companies use to describe their political spending is usually not precise, and rarely includes all types of political spending.

• 86 percent of the S&P 500 does not have stated policies on indirect political spending via contributions to trade associations and non-profit interest groups that have become a key area of concern. Financials firms are notably less likely than other sectors to have any policies on indirect spending.

• Less than one-quarter of S&P 500 companies require their boards to oversee political spending. Nearly all of those are the largest companies in America. Least likely to have oversight are smaller companies and companies in the Consumer Discretionary sector. Board oversight is more prevalent in the Health Care sector, which has been in the spotlight in recent elections and the subject of sweeping and controversial reform enacted in March 2010.

• More than 80 percent of the S&P 500 companies do not provide information on actual contributions, as opposed to the policies that ostensibly control that spending. Almost all companies that do report are at the top end of the revenue scale. One-third of Health Care companies disclose spending but only about 10 percent do in three other sectors—Financials, Telecoms and Consumer Discretionary.

• Only 52 companies indicated they do not use “independent expenditures” to advocate for or against the election of candidates.

• About half of all S&P 500 companies provide some information on which company officers make spending decisions. This management transparency is most common among Consumer Staples companies. In contrast, Financials companies provide the least amount of information, even though Congress enacted significant and contentious reforms for the industry in July 2010.

• Nearly 60 percent of S&P 500 companies spend shareholder money from the corporate treasury on political campaigns, while two-thirds have political action committees that spend money contributed by corporate executives. Utilities – amongst the most highly regulated industries – are more likely than any other sector to support candidates, parties and interest groups’ political committees, while Information Technology companies are the least likely to spend in these categories.

• Board oversight encourages disclosure of what companies do spend, but there is no evidence that such oversight affects spending.

This study was conducted through an examination of S&P 500 companies’ federal and state campaign contribution data and other publicly available information, combined with the results of a Si2 survey sent to each company. The report also includes two case studies and a short primer on the various types of political spending. The full study is available at http://www.irrcinstitute.org and http://www.siinstitute.org and is included in the IRRC sponsored Social Science Research Network Corporate Governance Network at http://www.ssrn.com/cgn/index.html.

About IRRC Institute
The IRRC Institute is a not-for-profit organization headquartered in New York, N.Y. Its mission is to provide thought leadership at the intersection of corporate responsibility and the informational needs of investors. More information is available at http://www.irrcinstitute.org.

About Sustainable Investments Institute
The Sustainable Investments Institute provides online tools and in-depth reports that enable investors to make informed, independent decisions on social and environmental shareholder proposals. More information is available at http://www.siinstitute.org.

Download the report here:
How Companies Influence Elections – Campaign Spending Patterns and Oversight at the S&P 500

Political Spending Governance Study Release

October 12, 2010

Si2 and the Investor Responsibility Research Center (IRRC) will host a webinar to review the findings of our new study, “How Companies Influence Elections: Political Campaign Spending Patterns and Oversight at America’s Largest Companies.”

The research findings will be released on Thursday, October 14, 2010, at 9 AM ET via Business Wire, on www.irrcinstitute.org, and email notification.

The webinar presentation will be held on Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 3 PM ET, and will provide a review of the findings and an opportunity to ask questions. The webinar is open to media and any interested parties. Pre-register for the webinar here.

The study is the first comprehensive report benchmarking the governance of corporate political spending. It comes against the backdrop of the Citizens United vs. The Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision and an unprecedented flow of funds – increasingly from indirect spending – into elections. This study was conducted through an examination of S&P 500 company data and responses to an Si2 survey. The report includes two case studies and a political spending primer.

Speakers: Jon Lukomnik, IRRC Institute Program Director and Heidi Welsh, Si2 Executive Director

Reserve a Webinar seat at: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/946931790

Dial In: 312-878-0218, Access Code 686-452-515

Note: Only participants logged in online will be able to ask questions.

After registering, a confirmation email will be sent with information on joining the webinar. The Webinar PowerPoint presentation will be posted in advance of the webinar at http://www.irrcinstitute.org and on this blog.

About IRRC Institute:The IRRC Institute is a not-for-profit organization headquartered in New York, N.Y. Its mission is to provide thought leadership at the intersection of corporate responsibility and the informational needs of investors. More information is available at http://www.irrcinstitute.org.

Contact: Kelly Kenneally, 202-256-1445, kelly@irrcinstitute.org

Si2 Political Spending Governance Study

August 9, 2010

Si2 sent out copies of our survey on political spending governance in early August to the S&P 500. A copy of the survey can be downloaded here: Si2 Political Spending Governance Survey – Print Version. The study results will be compiled and made available in October, thanks to a generous grant from the IRRC Institute. Please contact Heidi Welsh with any questions at tel. 301-432-4721 or email heidi@siinstitute.org.