The role of corporations in politics has changed dramatically. From the passage of the Tillman Act in 1907 to the Supreme Court's decision in 2010 in Citizens United, corporations played a limited role in the financing of federal elections. Corporations were prohibited from using corporate treasuries to make any contributions or expenditures in connection with a federal election. They had to use funds voluntarily contributed by employees and stockholders to a political action committee to make a contribution or expenditure in a federal election. All activity by the political action committee had to be fully disclosed to the Federal Election Commission, but Citizens United changed all that.
The elections are over, but the aftereffects of all those negative ads linger, both for shell-shocked TV viewers and for corporate donors that gave millions to put the thirty-second spots on the air. In boardrooms across the country, executives and directors are taking on uncomfortable questions about the money given to super PACs, trade associations and 501(c)(4) “social welfare” groups rather than toward opening new markets or restoring employees’ 401(k) matching funds. Are executives pleased with the increased prominence of business in electoral politics?
Mutual funds’ support for corporate political disclosure reached a new high in 2013, according to a ten-year analysis by the Center for Political Accountability. Forty large US mutual fund families voted in favor of corporate political spending disclosure an unprecedented 39% of the time, on average.
The Center for Competitive Politics issued a "fact-checker" on May 1, 2013 that purported to tell "the truth about corporate political spending issues." Unfortunately, it was filled with misstatements and inaccuracies. The following one-page information sheet corrects them.
The “Roundtable on Corporate Political Accountability: The Importance of Educating Future Business Leaders Post-Citizens United” was convened by four leading American business and law schools and the Center for Political Accountability. Deans and faculty at these schools identified an urgent need to educate future business leaders about issues of corporate political engagement that did not exist a generation ago. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 rewrote the rules for corporate participation in American politics; in its wake, educators believe it is important to teach current and future corporate leaders how to navigate the new political process responsibly.
Mutual funds’ support for corporate political disclosure dipped slightly in 2012 from its record high in the previous year, according to an analysis by the Center for Political Accountability. The review looked at how 40 of the largest mutual fund families voted on CPA’s model shareholder resolution that asked companies to disclose their political spending from corporate funds. It found that these fund families supported corporate political disclosure about 34 percent of the time in 2012, on average, compared with 35 percent in 2011.
This CPA Report provides a guide on how to manage corporate political spending in a risky new environment. Business leaders are educated on how to avoid the business and reputational risks that come with undisclosed political spending. The risks, as seen with the recent Target controversy, are not always obvious.
Mutual funds’ support for corporate political spending disclosure reached a new high in 2011. Average percent of votes cast by 40 of the largest U.S. mutual fund firms FOR the 32 Center for Political Accountability (CPA) model political spending resolutions moved up to 34%, compared with votes cast AGAINST or ABSTAIN. This continues an eight year trend of increasing support. Disappointingly, opposition also grew fractionally with a slight decrease in abstentions.
In an important milestone, a majority of mainstream mutual funds voted for the first time either ‘For’ or ‘Abstain’ on the Center for Political Accountability’s model political disclosure resolution in the recently concluded 2010 proxy season. This came as the CPA-coordinated resolution garnered increased support for the seventh consecutive year. Funds in 25 different families voted on the resolution at 28 companies.
This Handbook on Corporate Political Activity explains the ways in which companies’ political expenditures may inadvertently invite problems, and describes concrete steps that companies can take to steer clear of them. It recognizes that companies will want to fashion their political spending strategies to fit their individual needs. Its central point is that thoughtful political spending decisions that are embedded in a board-approved, robust governance structure can help guard against the pitfalls always present in political spending.