Category: Dark Money

Hoo boy … this campaign season is exhausting enough already without reporting the efforts of religious shareholder activist groups uniting to undo the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. But, to quote Michael Corleone in the third Godfather film: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

Joining the anti-Citizens United religious shareholders are public-sector unions, riding high after the eight-justice Supreme Court split evenly this week on Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The split decision ensures that public-sector unions may continue to collect compulsory union dues. Any honest guesses as to how this money will be spent must include political activity.

For its part, religious shareholder activists As You Sow continue to hold up their end of the bargain, openly working with unions to squelch opposition voices. Although AYS proxy resolutions on corporate political activity have fallen from a record high of 139 in 2014 to 98 resolutions thus far this season, readers may rest assured, as AYS warns in its 2016 ProxyPreview: (more…)

Religious shareholder activist group As You Sow released its 2016 Proxy Preview last week, and it’s a doozy. Tellingly, AYS has dropped religious faith as a rationale for its climate-change and anti-lobbying efforts. From the accompanying press release:

More 2016 shareholder proposals than ever before address climate change — 94 compared with 82 in 2015. Of the resolutions, 22 ask energy extractors and suppliers to detail how the warming planet will affect their operations and how they will respond if governments follow through with commitments made in the Paris climate treaty in December to keep fossil fuel assets in the ground to prevent damaging temperature increases. A further 18 resolutions focus on the risks from using hydraulic fracturing to extract energy from shale deposits, including 12 seeking methane reduction targets. Nineteen resolutions ask companies to set greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. The climate slate is rounded out by another 11 proposals that include a push to change energy reserves accounting at two companies and one suggesting executive bonuses should be linked to fossil fuel reserves accounting changes.

Political activity accounts for another 99 resolutions, including some drawing connections between government inaction on climate change and corporations’ lobbying and election spending. Proposals on lobbying (55) exceed those about election spending (40). Nine companies face resolutions seeking oversight and disclosure of both election and lobbying expenditures.

Hoo boy. Where to begin unpacking all the mischief hinted at above? Suffice it to write that the proxy resolutions in the 2016 Proxy Preview demand individual scrutiny in order to identify the wrongheadedness of it all. This despite the self-congratulatory back-patting and progressive smugness displayed above and below: (more…)

Jeb Bush spent $100 million, and still missed it by this much!

Jeb Bush spent $100 million, and still missed it by this much!

What can $100 million buy a fella these days? Trick question, of course, because $100 million can buy a whole heck of a lot. However, it can’t buy a Republican presidential nomination. Despite recent developments, the religious shareholder investors over at the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility continue their crusade to force the companies in which they invest to disclose publicly their donations to political causes and candidates.

ICCR’s fears are unfounded. If you don’t believe your writer, just ask Jeb Bush. The former Florida governor amassed an extraordinary campaign war chest reported at $100 million – but to no avail. His campaign never gained any traction this primary season despite receiving and spending millions of dollars, including $70 million on broadcast advertising spent by his Right to Rise super PAC, according to the New York Times. The Washington Post claims Right to Rise spent $87 million on advertising.

After two dismal primary and one caucus finishes, Mr. Bush pulled the plug on his campaign.

The Center for Competitive Politics President David Keating summed it up neatly after Saturday’s primary results:

“Money can’t buy love, or votes…. Has there ever been a better example than Jeb Bush of the fact that voters decide the outcome of elections, not money? From Blair Hull and John Corzine to Linda McMahon and Meg Whitman, Jeb Bush joins the litany of failed candidates with big campaign warchests who ultimately lost or dropped out. While money is critical for getting a message out, it can’t convince people to cast a vote, make Americans like a candidate, or fix systemic issues within a campaign.”

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Previously this week, The Wall Street Journal presented a list of “7 Things Investors Should Be Watching for a 2016 Unfolds.” While there’s much in Michael A. Pollock’s article to recommend it to readers who might’ve missed it, there’s also one significant omission – Number Eight, if you will: A Rise in Proxy Resolutions by Religious Shareholder Activists.

Shortly after reading the WSJ article, your writer received an email from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, the “corporate God-flies” who mask an actual leftist political agenda with their supposed faith-based concerns over social issues related to climate change and corporate spending on lobbying and politics. ICCR’s email announces the group’s increased efforts to stymie the best interests of the companies in which they invest in 2016 – without mentioning how their activities also negatively impact fellow shareholders as well as company customers and employees. Yet ICCR is undeterred in its efforts in a year thus far beset upon by great economic uncertainty and volatility:

Shareholder proposals on climate change and corporate lobbying and political spending head the list of 257 resolutions filed by ICCR members at 174 companies in the 2016 proxy season. Over one-third of total proposals this year are climate-related, including those related to corporate lobbying, revealing how climate change is viewed as a major risk for investors and engagements on how companies are mitigating these risks are taking on greater importance.

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From the time your writer opted to publicly proclaim his policy opinions in a variety of forums that are privately funded, he has incurred estrangement from ideologically opposed friends and family members, as well as receiving threatening emails and even frightening phone calls from complete strangers.

From the above experiences, it was easy to glean progressives can be very nasty (comments I receive often remark negatively on my choice of eyewear). Most tellingly, however, presume to know the private funding sources for the think tanks wherefrom much of my opinionated work emanates.

This last serves two purposes. The first is to discredit personal opinions as merely corporate or political propaganda. It’s a silly tactic to be sure, but one employed often against writers in the public sphere. The second is to name and shame any company or individual with which the progressives in question disagree. These enemies of debate, which include religious shareholder activists affiliated with As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, cannot abide private giving to causes with which they disagree. (more…)

George Soros

George Soros

George Soros just donated another $6 million to Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s Super Political Action Committee, raising the total the billionaire has contributed thus far to her 2016 campaign to $7 million. Liberals and progressives who can be counted on to hyperventilate every time the Koch brothers drop a dollar into a Salvation Army drum haven’t made a peep. They’ve also been remarkably silent on other donations to Clinton’s Priorities USA SuperPac, including $5 million from Haim Saban and his wife Cheryl; $2.3 million from Laurie Woods; and $2.5 million from Donald Sussman.

And I shall join the liberals and progressives in their chorus of silence, because, unlike them, your writer prefers intellectual consistency. So, you go, George Soros! And, likewise, Mr. and Ms. Saban, Ms. Woods and Mr. Sussman. Last, but not least, let’s hear it for the Koch brothers! Because each and every one of the above-listed donors are exercising their First Amendment free-speech rights, which were girded by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

However, liberals and progressives don’t see it that way when donations don’t go their way. For example the left-leaning investors affiliated with religious shareholder activists As You Sow seemingly can’t abide corporate donations in the political game when it’s their respective ox that’s gored, namely anyone who disagrees with their views on climate change, social issues, genetically modified organisms and, you guessed it, Citizens United.

Here’s an example from an AYS proxy resolution submitted to DuPont: (more…)

Enter at your discretion ... The 'Dark Money Zone'

Enter at your discretion … The ‘Dark Money Zone’

Poor Rod Serling. Had the Twilight Zone and Night Gallery host lived it’s assured he’d provide the voice talent for the audio book version of Jane Mayer’s Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires behind the Rise of the Radical Right. He’d also have a steady gig lending his portentous phrasings to such addle-brained prose as the following from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility [readers may insert Serling’s “Submitted for your approval” at their discretion]:

Unchecked corporate cash in the form of political donations and lobbying expenditures has the power to exert undue influence over public policy and regulatory systems and threaten our democracy. Yet in spite of this power, most S&P 500 companies lack a formal system of lobbying oversight and don’t fully disclose how monies are being spent, particularly through third-party organizations like trade associations. Investors are concerned that lobbying expenditures may inadvertently be diverted to groups advancing agendas contrary to the stated missions of companies, setting up potential conflicts of interest and exposing companies to reputational risk.

Sigh. Mayer and ICCR are working both sides of their levitating, shaking bed of anti-First Amendment, anti-Citizens United paranoia with Mayer seeking political intervention on one side and ICCR haranguing corporate shareholders with proxy resolutions on the other. In the meantime, the Republic remains a bastion of the freedoms that conjure 24-hour night terrors for the author and the so-called “religiously motivated” shareholder activists.

The “dark money” bogeymen searched for under those quivering bedsprings share the last name Koch, and we just can’t have libertarian billionaires expressing free speech in the U.S. political system, according to Mayer, ICCR and a raft of other opponents that are hypocritically funded by progressive billionaires bearing names like George Soros, Bill Gates, Tom Steyer, Warren Buffett and Eric Schmidt – all noted by George Melloan in his review of Mayer’s book in the Wall Street Journal: (more…)