Posts tagged with: As You Sow

Your writer has been telling readers for some time now that so-called “religious” shareholder activism is more political than spiritual. I’ve also pointed out time and again that the priests, nuns, clergy, and religious affiliated with such shareholder groups as As You Sow are opposed to corporate donations to political activities only when it suits them.

This last point was clarified recently by events in Arizona. First Affirmative Investments and Calvert Investments joined AYS in an attempt to force Arizona Public Service Company and its parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corp., to disclose whether either had donated money to the Free Enterprise Club, a 501c(4) nonprofit. It seems FEC provided funding to candidates campaigning for seats on the Arizona Regulatory Commission, and the source of the “dark money” disbursed by FEC to the candidates may or may not have come from APSC and Pinnacle. The kerfuffle stems from suspicions voiced by a Washington, D.C. outfit, the Checks and Balances Project, that an Arizona Corporation Commission official breached ethics or broke the law by communicating with APS and FEC.

Confused? Don’t be. The Arizona Attorney General is sussing out whether the official actually broke the law. The remainder of the story boils down to the left’s distaste for private political donations, which have been protected since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Citizens United. (more…)

The religious shareholders of As You Sow and Calvert Investments are heralding last month’s shareholder vote on greenhouse gas reduction targets as an out-and-out victory.

Ummmm … not so fast. Although the press release on the AYS website trumpets: “Shareholders Vote for Greenhouse Gas Reductions at Midwest Utilities,” the facts tell a much different story. Yes, some shareholders did indeed vote in favor of the AYS/CI resolution, but not nearly enough to pass it:

Citing climate change impacts and financial risks of carbon-intense coal assets, shareholders representing billions of dollars of assets voted for carbon reduction targets at FirstEnergy and Great Plains Energy, showing strong support for a pair of shareholder proposals put forth by non-profit As You Sow and investment group Calvert Investments.

All this from shareholder activists apparently unaware of a little government entity called the Environmental Protection Agency, which, for better or worse, won’t announce its final rules for existing and new, modified and reconstructed power plants until this summer. According to the EPA, the agency will release this summer a Clean Power Plan for existing power plants in states, Native American country and U.S. territories; Carbon Pollution Standards for new, modified and reconstructed power plants; and issue a federal plan for meeting Clean Power Plan goals for public review and comment. (more…)

Divestment-600-AEA-1Your faithful correspondent last week exposed the fossil-fuel divestment endgame of religious shareholder activists. As You Sow President Danielle Fugere sees her group’s activities as awareness-raising exercises for climate change, but AYS’s alignment with environmentalist and divestment firebrand Naomi Klein suggests they’d settle for nothing less than nationalizing oil companies. This week, I’m happy to report another group frequently called to task in this space, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, opposes the AYS divestment onslaught. Reporting in last week’s Wall Street Journal, Gregory J. Millman writes:

An organization of faith-based and socially responsible investors is pushing back against the call for divestment from fossil fuel companies. At its Winter Conference Wednesday, the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, which claims 300 member organizations controlling $100 billion in invested capital, called instead for more shareholder engagement with such companies.

“Divestment is one step but a blunt instrument that leaves investors with no voice at corporate tables,” said Laura Berry, executive director of the ICCR.

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dead cupidForget the candy hearts, chocolate, the local Cineplex and bistro this weekend. St. Valentine’s Day somehow has been hijacked by Global Disinvestment Day, which means you should protest fossil fuels and encourage shareholders to submit proxy resolutions to leave oil, coal and gas resources untapped. Your significant others are guaranteed to love it because … Gaia.

Behind this movement are nominally religious shareholder activists such as As You Sow, as well as the World Council of Churches, filmdom’s The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and extreme-environmentalist rabble rousers Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein. Figuring out the endgame of divestment advocates isn’t difficult – Naomi Klein laid it all out for us in a recent interview in Grist:

Another point I would make, [about] carbon pricing, is that when we make the argument that this is a rogue sector, that their business plan is at odds with life on earth, we are creating an intellectual and political space where it becomes much easier to tax those profits, to increase royalties, and even to nationalize these companies. This is not just about the fact that we want to separate ourselves from these companies, it’s also that we have a right to those profits. If those profits are so illegitimate that Harvard shouldn’t be invested in them, they’re also so illegitimate that taxpayers have a right to them to pay for a transition away from fossil fuels, and to pay the bills for a crisis created by this sector. It’s not just about dissociating ourselves from their profits, but potentially getting a much larger piece of them. [emphases added]

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figure6Religious shareholder activists continuously sing from a counterintuitive hymnal that asserts genetically modified organisms somehow are detrimental to the environment, the financial well-being of the companies relying on GMOs and those people who eat foods containing GMOs. For example, religious shareholder activist group As You Sow boasts on its website:

As You Sow has organized an investor letter sent to the top 50 corporate opponents of GMO labeling ballot initiatives in California (Proposition 37) and Washington (Initiative 522). The letter to public companies was signed by 45 wealth management and investor advocacy groups representing $36 billion, while the letter to private companies was signed by 38 groups representing $18 billion.

The letter describes the American public’s deeply unfavorable opinion of corporate money in politics, and the backlash suffered by companies that spent corporate funds to oppose Proposition 37 and Initiative 522. Investors are concerned that draining corporate funds to oppose these initiatives is especially unproductive as GMO labeling laws and bans continue to gain momentum, including a recent labeling law in Vermont and two countywide cultivation bans in Oregon.

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cummings275widthOne should always worry when dollar signs replace the letter “S” in discussions related to campaign finance and theology. For example, the title of Auburn Theological Seminary’s inaugural entry in its Applied Theology Series, “Lo$ing Faith in Our Democracy,” leaves little doubt there’s an unhidden agenda lurking within.

Auburn Theological is a seminary for continuing education for clergy. It doesn’t grant degrees, but seems to fancy itself a think tank of sorts. If the “scare dollar sign” in its Applied Theology title doesn’t give it away, perhaps the funding of the project will. According to the seminary’s website, the study “was funded in large part” by the Nathan Cummings Foundation (NCF), which is “rooted in the Jewish tradition and committed to democratic values and social justice.”

Along with As You Sow and the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, NCF is at the forefront of religious shareholder activists pushing progressive agendas, including remedying the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. (more…)

WalmartOn Friday, June 6, shareholders of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., will gather at the Bud Walton Auditorium on the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville, Ark. Among them will be As You Sow member Zevin Asset Management, which is pushing a resolution demanding the retailer issue annual reports on its policy, lobbying and membership expenditures. All of this, of course, is intended to embarrass Walmart in the same-ol’ name-and-shame game employed so often by shareholder activists advancing a progressive agenda.

What apparently bothers Zevin is Walmart’s exercise of its voice in policy issues directly impacting the company, its shareholders and – most important – its customers. Zevin’s resolution goes even further by requiring Walmart divulge its contributions to such tax-exempt groups as the American Legislative Exchange Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or the Business Roundtable. Why? Well – to Zevin and other shareholders cut from the same sackcloth — it’s unseemly that the world’s largest company engages with a group that writes model legislation. Never mind that the company employs more than 2 million people worldwide and donates more than $1 billion each year to charities, it’s the incorrectly perceived unsavory political nature of anything that drifts right-of-center. (more…)

No! Not the Dark Money!

No! Not the Dark Money!

“Dark money” sounds menacing and foreboding – a financial nomenclature suggestive of gothic masterpieces like “The Raven” and “The Black Cat.” Whereas Poe’s tales actually contain sinister elements, the phrase dark money is employed by activist shareholders much like the villains of countless “Scooby Doo” cartoons devised illusory ghosts, werewolves and vampires. The evildoers wanted to scare those meddlesome Mystery Machine kids from nefarious moneymaking schemes.

The anti-capitalism messages of “Scooby Doo” are repeated by those ominously intoning the perceived evils of so-called dark money in politics. In ordinary political usage, dark money refers to funds raised to finance an election campaign or ballot initiative without any requirement of public disclosure before voters decide the question.

Shareholder activists have torn a well-worn page from the “Scooby Doo” playbook by adopting the tactics of the show’s bad guys. These tactics include attempts to frighten voters with the dark money bogeyman, who lurks behind other pet issues such as genetically modified organisms and fracking (hydraulic fracturing). (more…)

Astute Acton readers more than likely are aware already that U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has fired another salvo in the ongoing battle to silence conservative voices. Durbin joins our progressive friends in the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and As You Sow – both involved in proxy shareholder resolutions that would force companies to disclose donations to nonprofits – in their attempts to declare lights-out on the American Legislative Exchange Council.

At issue for Durbin is ALEC’s draft legislation called the “Castle Doctrine Act,” based on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Apparently, Sen. Durbin doesn’t like either, in much the same fashion ICCR and AYS dislike ALEC’s stand on climate-change, genetically modified organisms, Citizens United  and “Castle Doctrine.”

In his letter sent last week to right-of-center and free-market think tanks across the country, Durbin demands “yes or no” answers. The numbered questions below are lifted directly from the Aug. 6 letter sent to the Center of the American Experiment in Minneapolis:

  1. Has Center of the American Experiment served as a member of ALEC or provided any funding to ALEC in 2013?
  2. Does Center of the American Experiment support the “stand your ground” legislation that was adopted as a national model and promoted by ALEC?
  3. (more…)

There has been ample evidence presented in the past several years to suggest shareholder activism exhibited via proxy resolutions not only wastes time but, as well, corporate funds. And yet, unions and “social justice” advocates such as the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and As You Sow perpetuate the practice to the detriment of targeted companies.

And, according to a recently released study, this activism also works to the shareholders’ detriment as well. In effect, these proxy resolutions shoot the shareholder perpetrators in their own collective foot by reducing the profitability of the companies in which they hold stock – while simultaneously wounding other shareholders who don’t necessarily share the whole leftist/liberal magilla against hydraulic fracturing, free political speech and genetically modified organisms while advocating for network neutrality.

“Analysis of the Wealth Effects of Shareholder Proposals – Volume III” was released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Workforce Freedom Initiative on May 2. The study was conducted by Navigant Consulting’s Allan T. Ingraham, Ph.D., and Anna Koyfman, whose analysis of proxy resolutions by shareholder activists concludes:

[T]here is no conclusive evidence of measurable improvements in (short-term or long-term) stock market or (long-term) operating performance in target companies as a result of shareholder proposals. Therefore, we find no evidence that shareholder activism has a positive impact either on firms or on the entities offering shareholder resolutions. (more…)