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Follow the Money
By Holly Testa, Director, Shareowner Engagement

By Holly Testa, Director, Shareowner Engagement

Money poured into this year’s midterm elections in record breaking amounts, and the biggest donor name for the year could well be “Anonymous.” This is thanks to the now infamous 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision allowing corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts on independent election expenditures.

According to recent analysis from the Center for Responsive Politics, more than $480 million was focused on this election cycle. Much of it was “outside spending”—money spent independently of candidate committees. Some of this unlimited outside spending is disclosed, but an increasing amount is being funneled through third parties such as trade associations and other tax-exempt organizations that keep their donor lists confidential.

The top 10 spenders in this non-disclosing category alone added up to over $100 million, and the tilt of this anonymous money is decidedly conservative—only two of the top 10 are considered organizations with liberal viewpoints. The two top spenders were the US Chamber of Commerce and Crossroads GPS, which accounted for over half of this amount. Many of these dollars are coming from corporations and unless they voluntarily agree to disclose their spending, investors are left in the dark.

First Affirmative strongly agrees with the recent New York Times editorial: “Basic investor protection requires that shareholders know how corporate money is spent. Good corporate governance requires executives to be transparent about their use of company cash.”

The Securities and Exchange Commission has a role to play, but has failed to act. In spite of the fact that they have received a record-breaking one million comments in favor of a rule requiring such disclosure, the SEC has removed this issue from its agenda.

Responsible investors, including First Affirmative, continue to advocate for this disclosure of money companies devote to political action, and have collectively partnered with the Center for Political Accountability to work to increase the number of companies voluntarily disclosing this information to its shareholders.

 

At First Affirmative, we understand that the ways we save, spend, and invest can dramatically influence both the fabric and consciousness of society. We believe that in addition to the benefits of ownership, investors bear responsibility for the impact our money has in the world. Are you making conscious decisions about the impact of your consumer purchase and investment decisions?

Posted: November 24, 2014