Federal Politics

Published — October 28, 2010 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Who funds independent expenditure ads?

“Not us” say 17 major U.S. companies

Introduction

The story of this election is the role of outside money. Undisclosed donations have provided millions of dollars for independent expenditures — much of it in television advertising — being run by trade associations and political non-profit groups.

But while the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision largely frees corporations to bankroll third-party ads out of their corporate treasuries, a significant percentage apparently have not done so, if an informal Center survey is any indication.

Many news articles have speculated on which corporations are bankrolling the deluge of independent advertisements jamming TV airwaves this cycle. But it seems like almost no one has bothered to actually ask them.

So we did.

The Center contacted the 50 largest companies in the 2010 Fortune 500 list. Each was asked if it is contributing funds to any independent political organizations — such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and 501(c)(4) tax-exempt groups like Crossroads GPS — for independent political ads.

Of the 50 companies contacted, 21 responded. Though some acknowledged dues-paid membership in the Chamber, 17 of the 21 said they made no additional donations for the Chamber’s more than $29 million in independent advertising, or to outside ad spending by any other independent group. One, mega-agribusiness Archer Daniels Midland, said it had given $1,000 to a 501©(4) organization active “at the state level” and declined to identify the group. Three companies responded only by declining to comment.

Some companies, such as General Electric Co., have policies prohibiting independent political expenditures. Peter O’Toole, the company’s director of executive communications, noted that the corporation’s website says GE “has a longstanding practice against using corporate resources for the direct funding of independent expenditures expressly advocating for or against candidates in elections for public office.” This ban, O’Toole said, extends to giving money to other groups so that they may make independent expenditures. If GE discovered that an independent group it funded used company funds for independent advertising beyond the company’s control, he said, that information would be disclosed.

State Farm Insurance takes a similar stance. Spokesman Jeff McCollum said State Farm “is not funding any IE campaigns or efforts. We have a policy that prohibits using company resources to support or oppose candidates, and funding an independent expenditure campaign would violate that policy.”

Even the Target Corp., which came under fire from gay rights supporters earlier this year for its disclosed $150,000 contribution to a group backing Minnesota Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, said it does not give groups money for independent ads. Spokeswoman Jessica Carlson told the Center, “To our knowledge, none of our membership dues” to non-profit and trade associations have been used for political activities, “and we specifically request that the associations use our dues only for management and lobbying purposes — not for political purposes, other than lobbying.”

Companies that made contributions to 501(c)(4) or (c)(6) groups for independent expenditures:

  • Archer Daniels Midland (did not identify recipient)

Companies that said they have not backed third-party independent expenditures:

  • American International Group
  • AmerisourceBergen
  • Bank of America Corp.
  • Boeing
  • Cardinal Health
  • Citigroup
  • Costco Wholesale
  • Dell
  • General Electric
  • General Motors
  • Hewlett-Packard
  • Microsoft
  • Pfizer
  • Procter & Gamble
  • State Farm Insurance Cos.
  • Target
  • Wells Fargo

Companies that declined to comment:

  • Exxon Mobil
  • Medco Health Solutions
  • Sears Holdings

Companies that did not respond:

  • AT&T
  • Berkshire Hathaway
  • Best Buy
  • Chevron
  • ConocoPhillips
  • CVS Caremark
  • Dow Chemical
  • Ford Motors
  • Goldman Sachs Group
  • Home Depot
  • International Assets Holding
  • International Business Machines
  • J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Kroger
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Lowe’s
  • Marathon Oil
  • McKesson
  • PepsiCo
  • Supervalu
  • United Parcel Service
  • United Technologies
  • UnitedHealth Group
  • Valero Energy
  • Verizon Communications
  • Walgreen
  • Wal-Mart Stores
  • WellPoint

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SOUTH JERSEYTed SiroisMark SullivanTom LarkinAnonymous Recent comment authors
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Mark Sullivan
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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Mark Sullivan

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

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

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

WHY DONT YOU HAVE FREEDOM?

Tom Larkin
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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
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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
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South Jersey

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

SOUTH JERSEY
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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