Posts tagged with: Center for Political Accountability

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…)

Reading the 2013 results of proxy shareholder resolutions orchestrated by various leftist organizations affiliated with “religiously” oriented investment groups, a colorfully descriptive phrase came to mind to describe both: Whatever its derivation, useful idiots is employed as “a pejorative term for people perceived as propagandists for a cause whose goals they are not fully aware of, and who are used cynically by the leaders of the cause.”

For the purposes of this post, we’ll grant groups with purported religious and socially conscious authority such as Walden Asset Management, Trillium Asset Management, As You Sow and the Interfaith Council on Corporate Responsibility the benefit of the doubt. We’re not questioning the quality of their faith or the depth of their social concern. But their political agitation is fair game for a thorough critique. And it is clear that these groups have a major blind spot when it comes to financier George Soros.  Soros, one may recall, is the Hungarian-born multibillionaire responsible for funding radical leftist causes, including the Center for Political Accountability, Common Cause, Media Matters, Planned Parenthood and ACORN and various and other sullied causes. The man, it should be noted, also amasses vast wealth by, in part, heavily investing in the energy sector.

It is the Center for Political Accountability, however, upon which I focus today. As noted previously, CPA’s Bruce Freed authored many of the shareholder resolutions introduced by faith-based activist shareholders gathered together to quiet corporate political speech as well as derail profits and place expensive speed bumps in the paths of companies in direct competition with Soros’ financial interests. Doubt it? Herewith from Ceres’ website:

Investors achieved noteworthy victories during this year’s shareholder proxy season, with a near record 110 shareholder resolutions filed with 94 U.S. companies on hydraulic fracturing, flaring, fossil fuel reserve risks and other climate – and sustainability – related risks and opportunities….

Filers of the resolutions include some of the nation’s largest public pension funds, such as the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) and the New York State and New York City Comptrollers’ Offices; socially responsible investors such as Green Century Capital Management and Trillium Asset Management; and religious, labor and other institutional investors, who collectively manage more than $500 billion in assets.

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As a child of the 1970s, your writer was witness to an amazing transformation in a large swath of the religious community. In what seemed like a wink of an eye, clergy, religious and nuns grouped together with yippies, hippies, and other left-of-center tribes to advance progressive causes. Never you mind that much of these initiatives have little overlap with Judeo-Christian principles, just believe in your heart that Jesus would oppose genetically modified organisms and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, while championing diversity and staunchly advocating the curtailment of greenhouse gases.

Of the above bugbears embraced as major issues by progressives, perhaps none resonates more than overturning Citizens United. Why, you ask? Because a reversal of the SCOTUS decision would tilt political discourse decidedly to the left, making all other issues fall like so many dominoes toward larger government, higher taxes and exponentially more regulations.  Take away businesses’ political voice and you’re left with nothing but one side of the debate.

This was the topic I watched debated on July 12 in Seattle at the Society of Corporate Secretaries & Governance Professionals’ Governance/Wired Conference. I attended the conference to help clarify the political spending and disclosure policies that seem to be front-of-mind for the shareholder-activist members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and As You Sow I’ve written so much about for Acton these past few months.

The debate featured Brian G. Cartwright, senior adviser, Patomak Global Partners, as advocate for Citizens United, and Bruce F. Freed, president and founder, Center for Political Accountability, arguing that the ruling posed grave threats to current political speech. Freed’s CPA nonprofit, incidentally, authored many of the campaign-finance proxy resolutions issued by shareholders.

Freed rhetorically asked: “Why is disclosure important?” and answered: “To reduce shareholders’ risk” by preserving the reputation of the business in which they hold stock. Among the threats listed were potential legal issues and risks of extortion. (more…)