Federal Politics

Published — September 25, 2013 Updated — May 13, 2014 at 5:10 pm ET

Companies disclosing more political spending

But ‘severe’ gaps remain in an era of corporation-fueled electioneering, new study says

Introduction

In an age of hidden election cash, the nation’s wealthiest public companies are increasingly revealing their campaign-related contributions and political policies — and doing so voluntarily.

More than three in four are more transparent than they were a year ago, with representatives of the pharmaceutical, IT service, chemical, health care and aerospace/defense industries ranking highest in a new study of political disclosure practices by the nonpartisan Center for Political Accountability and the Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

The findings follow a 2012 election cycle in which nonprofit groups, fueled by corporate cash to a level unknown, spent more than $300 million to advocate for and against political candidates primarily through negative television advertising. Federal law doesn’t require such nonprofits to reveal their donors.

The study in part judges whether — and to what degree — companies publicly disclose donations to politically active trade groups and “social welfare” nonprofits, adopt policies that govern political expenditures and disclose payments made to influence the outcome of ballot measures.

Improved disclosure hardly means all companies are willing to publicly out their politicking, which has become a major story line in federal politics since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision in 2010 granted corporations powerful spending freedoms.

To wit: a dozen of the 200 corporations studied didn’t snag a single point on the CPA-Zicklin index’s 70-point scale.

Financial service firms Charles Schwab Corp., T. Rowe Price Corp. and CME Group, as well as billionaire Warren Buffett’s holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, are among those earning goose eggs.

Internet giant Yahoo! Inc., Bank of America Corp., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Priceline.com Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and CBS Corp. meanwhile dwell at the basement’s threshold, each collecting just a handful of points.

But drug maker Merck & Co. Inc., IT firm Qualcomm Incorporated and United Parcel Service Inc. are disclosure stars, according to the study, with each receiving 66 out of a possible 70 points.

Insurer AFLAC Inc., Microsoft Corp. oil company ConocoPhillips, communications company Time Warner Inc. and banks JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. also scored highly.

Slightly lower, but squarely in the index’s top quartile: tobacco makers Reynolds American Inc. and Altria Group Inc., aerospace and defense behemoth Boeing Co., retailer Costco Wholesale Corp., pharmaceutical firm Pfizer Inc. and computer chip manufacturer Intel Corp. Reynolds American corporate documents, for example, this year revealed that the firm recently helped bankroll prominent conservative nonprofits highly active during the 2012 elections.

Houston-based Noble Energy, which specializes in oil and gas production, recorded the greatest improvement from 2012 to 2013, as it jumped from barely above zero to just short of a perfect score. Railroad company CSX Corp. and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. also experienced dramatic jumps.

Half of the corporations studied publicly reveal at least some information about money they give to nonprofit trade associations organized under section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Service code.

About 37 percent of them either disclose information about some or all of their giving to 501(c)(4) nonprofit groups, or they simply don’t give to them at all. That’s notably up from last year, when one in four fit this description.

Corporations’ state-level ballot measure activity, meanwhile, is also growing more transparent, with nearly half disclosing some information. Last year, about 36 percent did.

Much of this increased disclosure can be attributed to shareholder pressure and greater public awareness about corporations funding politically active nonprofits, said Bruce Freed, president of the Center for Political Accountability.

“This has put the issue of disclosure squarely on the agendas of corporate boards,” Freed said. “The companies are taking this seriously.”

But while the study notes that many corporations have made “steady and tangible progress” in their political disclosure practices, it states that its findings also reflect “severe gaps that shroud many corporate spenders in secrecy in an era of surging hidden political spending.“

Read more in Federal Politics

Share this article

Join the conversation

Show Comments

11
Leave a Reply

avatar
9 Comment threads
2 Thread replies
1 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
8 Comment authors
SOUTH JERSEYTed SiroisMark SullivanTom LarkinAnonymous Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Mark Sullivan
Guest
Mark Sullivan

Trump needs to conduct these activities because the entire MSM media, excluding Fox, is campaigning against him 24/7/365.

Didn’t Monica’s boyfriend’s wife and various criminal enterprises outspend Trump by almost 2-1?

CapitalistRoader
Guest
CapitalistRoader

Why wouldn’t he get an early start on fund raising? Hillary outspent him two-to-one in 2016. The Dem’s are the party of big money. The President knows this and is attempting to get a jump on it. Of course the Dem candidate will outspend him in 2020 so it’s only rational that he starts fund raising now.

George Young
Guest
George Young

Oh brother. We just 8 years of the Campaigner – in – Chief. Where was this journalistic rectal thermometer then. Just another article about 2000 words too long that merely takes another slap at Trump for something he far from initiated.

j stevenson
Guest
j stevenson

The big difference between Trump and all the rest is his refusing to accept funds from lobbyists, so they don’t have the White House access they are used to. These are the donors who buy the presidency and are as pixxed off that he won the election as are the media and the Dems. Lobbyists have never been shut out of the WH and Trump has told them he is not for sale.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Trump needs to be impeached and tossed in prison. Then have the key thrown away so he will never be free. Then he can see how it feels not to have freedom.

Mark Sullivan
Guest
Mark Sullivan

Thank you for the usual insightful leftist low IQ Snowflake response.

barney
Guest

hes not imprisoning them hes sending them back to their country chill tf out

SOUTH JERSEY
Guest
SOUTH JERSEY

WHY DONT YOU HAVE FREEDOM?

Tom Larkin
Guest
Tom Larkin

First, something positive. I was happy to learn of empirical information in article. BUT, the article was so slanted against President Trump as to be deemed fake news (“Perhaps Trump just lied.” (Two different issues)). The article mentions that President Trump raised over $67 million, but ended 2018 with $19 million. President Trump spent over $40 million 2016 and 2017. President Trump conducted 57 political rallies. The article notes the hats and T-shirts sold, but NEVER MENTIONS THE INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF REPUBLICAN SENATORS during a mid-term election that lost the House and the number of political rallies in… Read more »

Ted Sirois
Guest
Ted Sirois

At least Trump is getting donations from willing donors. Fresh from his first election, Obama used billions of our children’s tax dollars to save thousands of union jobs in the car industry and bailed out the banks and many Wall Street businesses. This secured his source of reelection funds for his reelection four years later.

South Jersey
Guest
South Jersey

TRUMP 2020; IS AN AMAZINGLY SMART MAN! VERY ORIGINAL & CREATIVE. I AM HAPPY TO HAVE HIS AS POTUS.

SOUTH JERSEY
Guest
SOUTH JERSEY

THIS ARTICLE WAS OBVIOUSLY WRITTEN BY, A TRUMP-HATE-GROUP. THAT FEELS; IT IS NOT NORMAL TO BE SUCCESSFUL WITH YOUR OWN BRAND NAME. WHEN, IF FACT, IT IS NORMAL! >>>>> THIS IS >>> FAKE NEWS!!! <<<< ie: A PACK-OF-LIES; SPUN INTO; DEFAMATION OF CHARACTER. FOR A SINISTER-AGENDA OF; FASCIST DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST, COUP D'ETAT

David
Guest
David

Are you on some kind of drugs? Writing in caps makes me think that you are grumpy old fart or a uneducated hillbilly.