Citizens United: Most Won't Engage But Won't Monitor Either

Back in July, I signed onto a letter from the Center for Political Accountability, Walden Asset Management and Domini Social Investment asking companies about their use of new corporate political spending routes opened up by the Citizens United decision.

As of October 7, 2010, 68 companies have formally responded, with several more responses expected.

35 of the responders stated they do not plan to engage directly in any independent expenditure activity. However, relatively few companies have committed to hold their trade associations’ political spending to scrutiny by imposing conditions on dues payments or other means. Other notable trends and highlights in the responses include:

  • Many smaller companies stated that because they generally do not engage in the political process, they do not see the need to implement a policy regarding independent expenditures or trade association monitoring.
  • Several companies stated that they currently or will begin to inform their trade associations that no portion of their dues may be used for political expenditures. Philip Morris International included a template of the communication it sends with its dues payments stating that none of the dues may be used for election activity.
  • Many larger companies declined to answer the questions posed or commit to any increased disclosure.
  • 30 companies stated that they would not engage in independent expenditures, but were reluctant to monitor or impose conditions on their trade association payments or did not address the issue at all.
  • All of the responders in the health insurance industry (Aetna, UnitedHealth, WellPoint) declined to outline their positions on independent expenditures.
  • Several responders appear to still be reviewing the implications of Citizens United and were not in a position to comment on the questions posed in the letter. Some of these responders say they will consider our ideas when formulating their policies.

Further information at Companies spend indirectly on politics (USA Today, 9/8/2010) and in this summary document (pdf)  with 2-3 prominent quotes from all of the responsive companies. Contact: Aaron W. Stanley, Staff Associate, Center for Political Accountability.

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