Companies embracing transparency on political spending


A new study shows that despite the recent Supreme Court Citizens United ruling, which is expected to unleash a flood of new spending into the elections of 2012, a majority of publicly-traded corporations are using their websites to disclose their political spending.

The study is the CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Political Disclosure and Accountability, and a lot of hands went into its making, including the Center for Political, the Carol and Lawrence Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

According to the study, 57% of public companies are making their political contributions and spending a matter of record. Among them are Microsoft, Wells Fargo, Merck, Colgate-Palmolive and IBM. Further, about a quarter of such companies refrain from political spending, period.

“Our findings are striking. They offer hope for increasing corporate political transparency and accountability at a time when everyone expects massive hidden spending to influence elections,” said CPA president Bruce Freed. “When CPA opened its doors eight years ago, few companies, if any, disclosed their political spending. Today, the CPA-Zicklin Index shows that the largest companies have heard the public outcry and are responding. S&P 100 companies are making voluntary disclosure of political spending a mainstream practice.”

“A significant number of companies recognize the risk associated with political spending and a growing number are not taking advantage of Citizens United, at least directly,” he added.

“The CPA-Zicklin Index is launched at a time when corporate political transparency is slowly emerging as a convention of good governance, corporate responsibility, and accountability,” said Prof. William S. Laufer of the Zicklin Center at Wharton, in the release. Disclosure and corporate oversight of political spending are now held out as metrics of risk management and, more importantly, may reflect the faithful exercise of fiduciary responsibility to shareholders. We welcome the opportunity to join CPA in crafting an annual Index that charts the progress of corporations in meeting and, now, exceeding this important convention.”