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Monday, April 12, 2004

Shareholders Ask Corporations to Disclose Political Contributions
Following up on last Friday's post about corporate money in politics, here's an AP story about how some shareholders are asking corporations to tell them what sort of political contributions management is making with their money.

The story talks mostly about how union pension funds are sponsoring these resolutions. Unions already face a fair amount of disclosure requirements, so it seems reasonable that corporations would have to do the same. In fact, the Supreme Court has found that unions are formed for partially political purposes whereas corporations are not.

But, there are actually more folks than the unions involved in these efforts. Similar shareholder resolutions have been filed by the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Sierra Club, and several individuals and mutual fund companies. Resolutions often ask the corporation to disclose the total amount of funds it is spending on politics, the policies for encouraging employees to contribute, the business rationale for each contribution, and the management people who were involved in making the contribution.

This disclosure is but a modest step toward getting corporations back to their true purpose in life: making products and making money. If people want to make money, they should invest in corporations. If they want to make a political statement, they should join a political group. But, they shouldn't turn their money-making machines into political machines that overpower other voices in American democracy.

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