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Got political conscience? There’s a guide for that

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Friday, December 16th, 2011 at 2:59 pm in campaign finance.

Man, I gotta a lot of stuff to return.

The Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending has issued its 2011 holiday shopping guide, which lists all the companies that fail to tell the public much, if anything, about what they spend on politics.

Less than one-third of major firms even guarantee that their boards exercise oversight for their executives’ political spending, CAPS says.

Among the worst: MasterCard, Amazon.com, Wal-Mart, Costco, Lowe’s, Walgren, IBM, Sprint, Colgate-Palmolive, Nike and even Walt Disney Co.

CAPS’ board includes California Treasurer Bill Lockyer.

Read the full release below.

HOLIDAY SHOPPING GUIDE AIMS AT COMPANIES THAT HIDE THEIR SPENDING ON ELECTIONS 

Bipartisan Coalition of Public Officials Praises IBM, Colgate-Palmolive
for Spending Restraint and Disclosure

Cites Amazon, Wal-Mart, Nike, Berkshire-Hathaway, CVS, others
for Spending and Secrecy

A holiday shopping guide aimed at closing the corporate political spending floodgates opened by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling was released today by the Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending (CAPS). It identifies well-known companies that spend freely on elections, fail to disclose that spending, and whose boards exercise little or no oversight on their political spending, as well as companies that limit their outlays on elections or report it publicly. By letting shoppers know how well-known companies perform based on their rankings in the Baruch Index of Corporate Political Disclosure (“Baruch Index”) and the CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Political Accountability and Disclosure (“CPA Index”), CAPS hopes to encourage companies to spend less and disclose more.

You can view the shopping guide here: http://bit.ly/holiday-shopping

The group includes Illinois’ Governor Pat Quinn, California’s State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, New York City’s Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio, Los Angeles City Comptroller, Wendy Greuel and other public officials (see full list below) who sit on the boards of public pension funds and share the view, confirmed by business school researchers, that corporate spending on elections is bad for a company’s bottom line and therefore bad for shareholders and employees’ pensions. CAPS members apply pressure on companies to limit their political spending and increase disclosure through direct engagement, pension fund activism, contracting reform, as well as state and local legislation.

Since Citizens United, an increasing number of companies have decided to strengthen disclosure of political spending, voluntarily limit their spending, and increase board oversight. However, many other companies have not embraced these reforms. Less than one-third of S&P 500 firms guarantee that their board has oversight responsibility for their company’s political spending. Even then, 90% of that board’s action is a post-hoc review of what management has done.

Kate CoyneMcCoy, CAPS’ Executive Director, Illinois’ Governor Pat Quinn, California Treasurer Bill Lockyer, NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and Los Angeles City Comptroller Wendy Greuel are available for interviews upon request.

Kate CoyneMcCoy is the former Regional director of the Political Opportunity Program (POP) at EMILY’s List, the largest political action network in the United States, and has served as a Fellow in the Women’s Public Policy Program at Harvard University since 2007. 

Current CAPS members include: Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, North Carolina State Treasurer Janet Cowell, New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, Pennsylvania State Treasurer Rob McCord, Public Advocate for the City of New York Bill de Blasio, Comptroller for the City of Los Angeles Wendy Greuel, North Carolina State Representative William Current, Sr., New Hampshire State Representative James Pilliod, and Hillsborough County Commissioner Toni Pappas. 

 

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  • RR, Senile Columnist

    This useless organization is premised on the idea that Capital should have no influence on politics. Lenin felt the same way, as do Los Hermanos Castro. See what money-free politics did for Russia and Cuba? Ok, let’s strictly limit campaign spending. Cool. We will wind up with a class of mediocrities and cranks that make today’s batch look like the Founding Fathers.

  • John W

    Re: #1

    “…organization is premised on the idea that Capital should have no influence on politics.”

    Perhaps you could point me to the wording in the report that states or even implies such a premise. It’s a premise worth debating — the degree to and manner in which corporations or unions should be allowed to spend money to influence election outcomes. However, this report doesn’t even speak to that question. It’s premise is that companies which do spend money on elections (now allowed under Citizens United) ought to have transparency, with disclosure to the public and accountability to it’s shareholders and their elected directors.

    If IBM can rate a perfect score for such accountability and disclosure, why shouldn’t other companies? If I contribute $200 to a federal candidate’s campaign, it’s all over the internet in the FEC reports. Also, the max I can contribute to a presidential candidate, were I inclined to do so, is $5,000 combined for the primary and general election. Yet (name the big company you most love to hate) can spend millions on behalf of or in opposition to a Senate candidate — or do so indirectly through a SuperPac — and not have a damned thing disclosed to the public, shareholders or a board of directors. With that kind of undue and undisclosed influence, I might as well light a match to my $200. This is good for democracy?

  • Elwood

    “and not have a damned thing disclosed to the public, shareholders or a board of directors.”

    The only stakeholders here are the shareholders. It’s my money they’re playing with and I’d like to know how it’s being spent.

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    The much-maligned Citizens United decision also applies to organized labor. Does anybody care who unions support?

  • John W

    Re: #3

    “The only stakeholders here are the shareholders.”

    Seriously? If XYZ Corp. anonymously spends a kazillion to support or defeat a candidate for mayor of some city under some benign name like “Citizens for Jobs,” the general public and electorate is not a stakeholder in knowing this?

  • John W

    Re: #4 “Does anybody care who unions support.”

    Yes, we need transparency whether it’s unions or corporations. I mentioned unions in the third line of my first paragraph in #2 comments. However, unions rarely seek to conceal who they are backing. In fact, they are normally pretty open about it, as they try to get concessions in return for their public endorsement and then try to mobilize their members to get behind the chosen candidate.

  • John W

    Re: #3

    “The only stakeholders here are the shareholders.”

    Seriously? My measly $200 contribution to some Congressional candidate goes up on the SEC website, but XYZ Corp. should be able to anonymously spend a gazillion bucks to support or defeat a candidate under some benign name like “Committee for a Better America?” The general electorate doesn’t have a stake in knowing that XYZ Corp. is paying for all those TV spots that are dominating the airwaves in a particular campaign?

  • Elwood

    @#5 & 7

    Under existing law, all any entity has to do is form a 501(c)(3)corporation and none of its contributions must be reported.

    If you don’t like it, get the law changed.

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    Money is the mother’s milk of politics–Jess Unruh

  • John W

    Re: #8

    “if you don’t like it, get the law changed.”

    Agreed. That’s the point! In the meantime, I think it’s a very wholesome thing for CAPS to shine a spotlight on the good and bad actors in the corporate world. I don’t see why anybody would think it a bad thing.

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    That’s enough about corporate responsibility. Business looks after its own interests, which is more than can be said about most citizens. Poorly informed yokels respond to dopey personal attacks, rumors and, in their delightful ways, act upon selfishness and envy that make the evil special interests seem broadminded by comparison. The slobs have lots of power in numbers, something Big Biz can seldom overcome. If money was all it took to gain office, Nelson Rockefeller would have been prez and Steve Forbes would at least have made it to the Senate. Stop whining about “the power of money in politics” and concentrate on the power of ideas.

  • John W

    Re: #11

    “Stop whining about the power of money in politics and concentrate on the power of ideas.”

    That strikes me as pretty naive.

    It’s one thing for a Rockefeller or Forbes to spend their own money to get elected. Obviously we’ve got recent and distant examples of how that didn’t work in California. Here’s the difference. Their spending was, by law, completely transparent. Some would argue that trying to “buy” your own election can be counter-productive in that many voters rebel against that. So, there is a check and balance of sorts. Not so if XYZ corp., or a group or corps with a common interest in electing or defeating a particular candidate for office decides to anonymously spend vast sums to drown out all other political advertising in a TV market. Another difference is that candidates spending their own money on their own behalf is just them trying to get elected. There’s no quid pro quo involved. In contrast, a corporation anonymously spending big bucks to elect somebody who will do their bidding or defeat somebody who won’t is corruption.