Since 2003, the Center for Political Accountability (CPA) has spearheaded disclosure and accountability in corporate political spending. Corporations are the top political spenders at the state and local level. They are a dominant force in shaping public policy. Next proxy season, I will join the Center for Political Accountability in filing proposals on this important topic.
Center for Political Accountability: Citizens United
As I have reminded readers in previous posts, the US Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was based on a false premise. Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion justifies the decision by pointing to the Internet.
With the advent of the Internet… Shareholders can determine whether their corporation’s political speech advances the corporation’s interest in making profits, and citizens can see whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests.
The decision also said that disclosure
permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.
And the Court expressed enthusiasm that technology today makes disclosure “rapid and informative.” Yet, corporations are not required to make the disclosures to shareowners as Justice Kennedy seems to have believed.
Center for Political Accountability: Collaboration
How can we, as shareowners, hold corporate managers accountable when we do not know what candidates or measures they are supporting? I outlined several strategies in Citizens United: Five Years Later. One such strategy is filing resolutions in partnership with the Center for Political Accountability. Other efforts have included:
- The Conference Board published The Handbook on Corporate Political Activity, featuring CPA as lead author, in 2010.
- The annual CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Political Disclosure and Accountability (launched in 2011) is compiled with the Zicklin Center for business Ethics Research at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
- Roundtables examining corporate political activity and its risk have been held with The Wharton School, New York University’s Stern School of Business, Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business, UCLA School of Law, and Columbia Law School.
- The first business school course on corporate political engagement and executive statesman (launched in 2015) was offered by the Stern School. (see Corporate Political Power (BSPA-GB.2356.30 – 3 credits)
Center for Political Accountability: Accomplishments
- 305 companies are disclosing some or all of their political spending with corporate money.
- More than 150 large companies – including more than half of companies in the influential S&P 100 – have struck political disclosure agreements with CPA and/or its shareholder partners.
- Companies have disclosed at least $83 million in previously hidden payments made to six leading politically active trade associations over the past two election cycles.
- 68 companies are disclosing and/or restricting their dark money payments to trade associations and 501(c)(4) nonprofit groups.
- You can read the annual CPA-Zicklin Index, the first comprehensive benchmarking of large public companies for disclosure and accountability. The Index shows that disclosure is becoming a mainstream corporate practice.
- You can learn about best practices for managing and overseeing company political spending in The Conference Board’s Handbook on Corporate Political Activity, which featured CPA as the lead author.
- You can read the Harvard Business Review’s A Board Member’s Guide to Corporate Political Spending, which includes a checklist of effective steps and guidelines for directors in reviewing political spending, co-authored by CPA.
Center for Political Accountability: Donate
The Center for Political Accountability (CPA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. All donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.
How to donate.