Posts tagged with: American Legislative Exchange Council

CEI
By now, readers should be aware of the campaign waged against the Competitive Enterprise Institute led by Al Gore and a cadre of attorneys generals with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman at the top of the rogues’ gallery. The subpoena goes so far as to demand CEI produce “all documents or communications concerning research, advocacy, strategy, reports, studies, reviews or public opinions regarding Climate Change sent or received from” such specifically named think tanks as the Acton Institute, The Heartland Institute and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy as well as industry organizations the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Oil & Gas Association and the American Petroleum Institute.

It’s the latest volley from the left – including religious shareholder activists’ often successful efforts to force corporations withdraw financial support and cede membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council – to stifle any whiff of opposition when it comes to the hypothetical, manmade catastrophic climate-change theory. ALEC, in fact, joins Acton and many other groups named in the subpoena, and leaders from these organizations have joined CEI in a strongly worded full-page advertisement that appeared in the New York Times last week:

This abuse of power is unacceptable. It is unlawful. And it is un-American.

Regardless of one’s views on climate change, every American should reject the use of government power to harass or silence those who hold differing opinions. This intimidation campaign sets a dangerous precedent and threatens the rights of anyone who disagrees with the government’s position – whether it’s vaccines, GMOs, or any other politically charged issue. Law enforcement officials should never use their powers to silence participants in political debates.

For those who haven’t been shocked out of complacency by this latest, blatant abuse of politically empowered legal authority marshaled in an effort to shut down free speech and exchange of scientific public policy, allow your writer to recap briefly. U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude E. Walker – one member of Gore and Schneiderman’s lawyerly goon squad, which also includes AGs from California, Connecticut, District Of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington State – issued a subpoena to CEI in late March. (more…)

Allergan_LogoOn its website, Trinity Health trumpets its shareholder activism. Based in Livonia, Mich., the Catholic health care provider boasts operations in 21 states, which includes 90 hospitals and 120 long-term care facilities. For this last, Trinity should be lauded.

For the first, however, your writer is left shaking his head.

Among Trinity’s list of five shareholder advocacy priorities, two stand out:

• uphold the dignity of the human person.
• enable access to health care.

In other words, issues any reasonable Catholic could get behind. However, Trinity is the lead filer on a proxy resolution that will be voted on next month at the Allergan, Inc., annual shareholders meeting. The cause? Read for yourself:

*RESOLVED*, the stockholders of Allergan request the preparation of a report, updated annually, disclosing:

1. Company policy and procedures governing lobbying, both direct and indirect, and grassroots lobbying communications.

2. Payments by Allergan used for (a) direct or indirect lobbying or (b) grassroots lobbying communications, in each case including the amount of the payment and the recipient.

3. Allergan’s membership in and payments to any tax-exempt organization that writes and endorses model legislation.

Your writer fails to understand how any of the above reconciles with Trinity’s five priorities listed above, and Trinity’s rationale doesn’t get any less murky: (more…)

1333630489130_3671856Back in the 1960s and ‘70s, those of us of a particular bent loved the word “freedom.” The word was featured in the lyrics of many popular songs of the era, and the case could be made that hippies were called freaks as a pun on their oft-chanted “free” mantra. Heck, there was even a band named Free, which captivated the zeitgeist with a classic song about a man angling for a little “free” love with a woman too savvy to succumb so easily.

Free speech also once was all the rage. Lenny Bruce and George Carlin’s infamous seven words and all that, am I right? So, what happened? When did the hippies, yippies, liberals and progressives transition from fetishizing all things related to freedom to checking under their beds every night for a missing Koch brother? (more…)

The 2014 proxy shareholder season is over, and left-of-center religious investment groups such as the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and As You Sow are crowing about victories and announcing their plans for next year. For example, ICCR notes in its latest issue of The Corporate Examiner:

While virtually every company participates in lobbying of some sort, companies often make undisclosed expenditures to third-party trade associations which then use that money in ways that can run counter to a company’s publicly-stated positions. After sustained engagement with ICCR members, VISA left the controversial model legislation group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and has implemented board-level oversight of its lobbying activities. Amgen agreed to disclose its membership in trade associations along with the amounts the trade associations spend from its fees for lobbying. Accenture has significantly expanded its public lobbying disclosure. A resolution calling for lobbying disclosure at Emerson won 41.6%.

Political spending by corporations is also an issue for investors. Hess committed to fully disclosing its trade association memberships and the names of the tax exempt organizations to which it makes contributions, as well as the portion of those payments that is used for political activities. EQT adopted a political contributions transparency policy. A resolution on contributions at Emerson won 47% of the vote. (more…)

“A little older, a little more confused,” the late Dennis Hopper once intoned. One month into 2014, the same could be said for this writer. After all, what could be more confusing than members of the religious community employed as willing conspirators in the great organized labor gambit to stifle corporate political speech? Year after year, however, that’s increasingly the case.

For example, the Interfaith Council on Corporate Responsibility’s recently redesigned website heralds its distaste for corporate participation in the political process:

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. (more…)

birdsflock“Byrdes of on kynde and color flok and flye allwayes together,” wrote William Turner in 1545. If he were with us today, the author might construct an interesting Venn diagram representing the activist birds scheduled to testify tomorrow before the Securities and Exchange Commission. But, rather than briefly overlapping sets of circles, the SEC witnesses for greater corporate “disclosure” comprise one giant bubble of activists seeking to circumvent the U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United ruling, including Laura Berry, executive director, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

Berry joins a gaggle of like-minded individuals who somehow think the country benefits from forcing “publicly traded companies to disclose their political spending,” according to a joint Public Citizen’s Congress Watch/Columbia Law School Public Affairs media advisory. Among Berry’s peeps clamoring for tightening SEC rules are Heidi Welsh, Sustainable Investments Institute; Pat Doherty, Office of the New York State Comptroller; and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). (more…)

Readers following my series of blog posts on shareholder proxy resolutions submitted by religious groups such as As You Sow and the Interfaith Council of Corporate Responsibility already know these resolutions have little to do with issues of faith. In fact, an overwhelming majority of these resolutions concern corporate speech and attempts to stifle it.

Your shareholders want to know more about your political spending. Really.

Your shareholders want to know more about your political spending. Really.

AYS and ICCR – as well as a host of other religious shareholders – submit proposals drafted by Bruce Freed, head of the Center for Political Accountability. Freed’s CPA and the Wharton Business School’s Zicklin Center, readers will recall, issued its annual index late last month. My last post detailed in part the wrongheadedness of shareholders pushing a political agenda at the expense of their fellow shareholders. However, I anticipate most readers require a bit more than your lowly scribe’s word that the CPA-Zicklin Index not only inflates the results of its shareholder resolutions but as well operates on behalf of groups more interested in shutting down corporate political speech.

The Center for Competitive Politics, a First Amendment nonprofit think tank located in Alexandria, Va., brings more firepower to arguments I’ve already made regarding the efforts of CPA and the proxy shareholders for whom Mr. Freed drafts resolutions. Regarding the CPA-Zicklin Index, CCP issued a statement by CCP Chairman Brad Smith, former Federal Election Commission Chairman:

To look at the CPA-Zicklin Index as a measure of ‘best corporate practices’ is like asking a wolf to describe ‘best practices’ for sheep … Corporations have an obligation to do what is in the best interest of their shareholders, not comply with the demands of a non- profit that opposes speech by the business community. (more…)