Shareholders Press for Political Spending Disclosure
by James Hyatt
Shareholder support for disclosure of corporate political support continues to build.
The Center for Political Accountability, examining results of disclosure proposals for the 2010 annual meeting season, found that shareholder support for disclosure rose to a record 30.25% at 28 meetings.
Since 2004, about 200 disclosure resolutions have been submitted on corporate proxies.
Disclosure support at four companies was particularly strong: Coventry Healthcare, 46%; Express Scripts, 42%; CVS Caremark, 41.35%; Sprint Nextel, 41.2%, and Allstate, 39.7%.
Bruce Freed, President of the CPA, says the results indicate that “more and more (investors) are calling for an end to the secrecy that has cloaked corporate political spending and want accountability.”
He added: “When you consider that the majority of votes side with management as a matter of course, the substantial support from retail and institutional shareholders shows the broad support for political disclosure.”
The Center recently launched an online database that allows users to examine how specific companies treat political accountability and disclosure.
Corporate political campaign support has become a hot button issue this year, particularly in view of the January 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court removing limits on corporate and union spending on political ads.
Critics of the decision fear a deluge of corporate spending, prompting Democrats to seek to limit the decision and to require contributors to disclose their identities. The legislation, labeled the DISCLOSE Act, passed the House 219 to 206 in late June, but backers had to make key concessions to achieve passage. One change would exempt the National Rifle Association from the bill’s disclosure requirements. And opponents, led by the U.S. Çhamber of Commerce, have labeled the measure an assault on free speech.
Similar legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate faces an uncertain future, particularly in an election year.