Hundreds of millions of dollars. That's how much corporations spend to back U.S. candidates and shape U.S. policy. A significant amount of this, coming from public companies, is undisclosed.

This means that American citizens — and even shareholders — don't know which companies are influencing elections, how much they spend, or what the consequences are to this country. The lack of transparency — and the opportunities for bias, preferential treatment, and backroom deals — runs counter to the very concept of our democracy.

That's where the Center for Political Accountability comes in.

The Center for Political Accountability is a non-partisan, non-profit advocacy organization leading the only successful effort that is achieving corporate political disclosure and accountability. As a non-government organization (NGO), CPA works outside the political system.

With prospects nil for legislative or regulatory fixes nationally, CPA has developed an innovative strategy that enlists the cooperation of companies themselves by demonstrating the business value of spending transparency.

Since 2003, CPA has achieved unparalleled success in making disclosure and accountability the norm by:

• Publishing the annual CPA-Zicklin Index, which benchmarks S&P 500 companies, and is the only index of its kind. 

• Building and maintaining the database, which includes undisclosed company spending and profiles, available to the public and the press. 

• Educating companies on how voluntary disclosure and spending oversight can help them manage risk for both company and shareholders.

• Providing ongoing thought leadership, guidance and expertise to the press, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, TheWall Street Journal, The Guardian, FORTUNE, and more. 

Reshaping how American companies engage in political spending

CPA is proud to share the results achieved to date:

• More than 150 companies have reached agreements with CPA and investor partners.
• 117 of these disclose or prohibit contributions to secretive “social welfare” organizations, cutting off meaningful funding to leading political attack dogs.

• Nearly 300 companies in the S&P 500 disclose some or all of their election spending.

The bottom line: CPA is fast making political disclosure and accountability the norm and establishing best practices major companies are now following. Companies that have weak or non-existent disclosure and accountability policies are now seen as outliers.

What's ahead?

 Upcoming initiatives include: 

• Helping companies move beyond disclosure to actual change in conjunction with robust board oversight.

• Spearheading new efforts that ensure companies follow-through with their evolved policies, especially as they relate to — or collide with —their brand and publicly stated core values and  policies.

• Continuing to push for adoption of the CPA-initiated Securities and Exchange Commission rule to require public companies to disclose their political spending with corporate funds.

In the current political climate (and since the 2010 Citizens United decision), the issue of political accountability has become more important than ever. In that decision, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy championed disclosure, asserting that "Shareholders can determine whether their corporation’s political speech advances the corporation’s interest in making profits, and citizens can see whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests." Ironically, that same decision unintentionally opened the floodgate to the "dark money" that has since deluged our democratic process.

At the Center for Political Accountability, our mission is — and will remain — to shine a light on corporate political spending, to continue to improve transparency and accountability, and to ensure that companies act in ways that are in accord with the values of their shareholders and the principles of our nation. 

How can you help?

Whether you're a journalist, concerned citizen, a company shareholder, or reside in the executive suite, you can help CPA pursue its mission. Click here for suggestions and next steps. 

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