Corporate political donation disclosure hits record high


Companies are under pressure from shareholders, customers, employees and regulators, including the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Gary Gensler, to align their political influence with their stated values.

“These ideas have become mainstream,” Bruce Freed, president of the Center for Political Accountability, said in an interview.

Companies in a core group tracked by the CPA-Zicklin index are quickly adopting disclosure policies. The number of people who disclose or ban giving to tax-exempt groups has jumped 95% since 2015; the number of those who have delegated decision-making power to board members has more than doubled.

High scores: Ford Motor Co. became the first automaker to score 90 or more on the index, joining newcomers Cigna, Comcast Corp., FirstEnergy Corp., Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc., Marriott International Inc., PayPal Holdings Inc., Yum! Brands and others.

The group distinguished Intel Corp. for its policy on political spending. The company has ended contributions to members of Congress who voted against certification of the 2020 presidential election.

AT&T Inc. got a perfect score after limiting payments to trade associations and tax-exempt groups. The company’s ranking has jumped in 2019, when he adopted policies after making payments to a shell company controlled by Michael Cohen, a former lawyer for former President Donald Trump who then served a sentence in federal prison.

“AT&T was a company that had resisted the adoption of strict disclosure and liability policies until the Michael Cohen scandal,” Freed said.

Not so high scores: Netflix Inc. was one of 27 companies to score zero on the index for the second year in a row.

At an annual meeting in June, nearly 81 percent of Netflix shareholders asked the company to disclose its political donations, including money going to business associations and tax-exempt groups.

Netflix opposed the resolution, saying it would be expensive. He also said his trade associations are free to take positions that the company opposes “and which are not directly attributable to the dues we pay.” It might be “difficult for us to assess exactly how our contributions to such organizations could be used, which would make it difficult to comply with this proposal”, Netflix wrote.

The board said it would continue to assess the appropriate disclosures. Netflix spokeswoman Lauren Condoluci declined to comment.

Walmart Inc. got a low score of 28.6 percent. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon currently heads the Business Roundtable, a group of CEOs who in 2019 said companies should work for the good of all stakeholders, including communities and clients.

The retailer discloses contributions to state and federal candidates, parties and committees as required by law, Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said in a written statement.

“We continue to look at ways to further improve our disclosures,” Hargrove said.

Business Roundtable spokeswoman Jennifer Cummings declined to comment. Political donations are not specifically mentioned in the 2019 roundtable statement.

Big stakes: Fundraising for the 2022 mid-term legislative elections is on track to break records, and millions of dollars from unidentified donors are flock in groups of dark money.

Walmart and other companies that withheld their contributions after the Jan.6 riot have resumed donating to political action committees that fund the campaigns of lawmakers who voted against President Joe Biden’s election victory.

“The stakes today are much, much higher than in any election than maybe since the Civil War,” Freed said. “Our democracy is under attack.

A little background: Fourteen shareholder resolutions on political spending were passed this year. In addition to Netflix, the measures won majority votes from Chemed Corp., Duke Energy (a 70 on the Zicklin scale), Omnicom Group (25.7), Royal Caribbean Cruises (24.3) and United Airlines Holdings. (25.7), according to the data. of As you sow.


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