Posts tagged with: lobbying

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, November 19, 2015

Corruption-bribe-5-x-7_-123rfWhen Americans think of corruption, we tend to think of third world countries where getting anything done often requires bribing local government officials. We tend not to have such problems here; our corruption is more subtle and sophisticated, and often involves state level lawmakers.

For instance, over the past few years there have seen corruption-related charges or convictions of the house or assembly speakers of Alabama (bribery, misuse of campaign funds), Rhode Island (bribery, misuse of campaign funds), South Carolina (misuse of campaign funds), and New York (bribery, fraud, extortion, etc.). The former governor of Virginia was convicted for taking a bribe and the governor of Oregon resigned because of corruption charges.

That’s one of the reasons why states need systems and laws in place that can help prevent and expose corruption. So how are individual states doing in regards to transparency and accountability?

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…)

max_600_400_democracy-allianceWhen it comes to political and lobbying spending, it’s a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world, to quote the Kinks’ Ray Davies. Leftist organizations such as the Center for Political Accountability, the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, and As You Sow seemingly check the closets and under the beds each night to ensure corporations aren’t exercising their First Amendment rights to freely engage in the political process. These shareholder activist groups work together and individually to stifle corporate speech by submitting proxy resolutions to companies in which they invest. These resolutions request companies to publicly divulge spending on lobbying and political campaigns as well as corporate contributions to such nonprofit advocacy groups as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

But when it comes to progressive billionaires contributing to liberal causes and candidates, CPA, AYS and ICCR are conspicuously silent. What’s the deal?

As noted by CPA’s Bruce Freed on the AYS website:

‘Dark money’ spending by third-party political organizations poses an even more serious risk to companies as they face growing pressures to contribute. To address the threat, the Center for Political Accountability (CPA) and its shareholder partners will be filing resolutions at more than 50 companies in the 11th year of CPA’s advocacy and engagement effort. (more…)

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…)

In a new video from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Green Family, owners of the embattled retail chain, Hobby Lobby, discusses the religious foundation of their business and the threat the federal government now poses to those who share their beliefs.

“What’s at stake here is whether you’re able to keep your religious freedom when you open a family business,” says Lori Windham, Senior Council at The Becket Fund, “whether you can continue to live out your faith in the way that you live every aspect of your life.” (more…)

When it comes to political contributions it seems those who lean left-of-center cannot abide competition, which – in large part – explains the hue and cry from the left since the U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United ruling. It’s all well and fine when unions, for example, or certain Hollywood hotshots flip a few million to the progressive cause or candidate du jour, but when a corporation wishes to defend the interests of its employees, shareholders and communities it’s the basis for handwringing, rending of garments and a flurry of public pronouncements that SCOTUS got it Just. So. Wrong.

Into this environment has been introduced a certain element that to less discerning eyes is of a spiritual nature – but is nothing more than progressive ideology cloaked in chasubles and habits – in the form of clergy, nuns and various religious submitting proxy shareholder resolutions. A case in point would be the recent announcement that a lobbying-disclosure  resolution filed by the Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order (members in good standing of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, naturally) directed at Alliant Techsystems passed on July 31.

In a press statement, Fr. Michael Crosby, ICCR board director and lead filer of the resolution, noted:

Our province of Capuchin Franciscans has been very concerned for over a decade with some of the businesses of Alliant Tech, particularly land mines, as this is a weapon that continues to kill and maim innocent people around the world. This concern is only exacerbated when the company moves into guns and then lobbies heavily to thwart legislation that would regulate their use….

As ATK [Alliant] shareholders we have maintained that we have a right to know how lobbying funds are being deployed to determine whether these activities are in alignment with our company’s stated mission and values. Today, our fellow shareholders made it clear that they are in agreement.

In other words, Fr. Crosby was able to convince 65 percent of shareholder voters to support lobbying disclosure by Alliant, which spent nearly $3 million on lobbying efforts between 2011 and 2012. Alliant additionally has been a member of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which has spent $1.6 million in lobbying efforts since 2011. Much of the latter’s lobbying focuses on opposition to legislation demanding additional background checks, magazine limits and bans on assault weapons. (more…)

This morning I found that a commenter on my post about government failure in feeding the poor in India had complained that we should not trust “corporations who own the government.” I think this is a point worth further consideration. After all, I would argue that in the United States we have lousy agricultural policy. We essentially still have policies from the Great-Depression era aimed at manipulating prices, and business interests predictably engaging in a form of regulatory capture.

Jordan Ballor and Ray Nothstine wrote a good piece in Acton Commentary on the issue of agricultural policy here. I particularly like their discussion on Abraham Kuyper:

What the Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper said of the manual laborers of the nineteenth century is equally true of agricultural workers in the twenty-first. “Unless you wish to undermine the position of the laboring class and destroy its natural resilience,” he warned, “the material assistance of the state should be confined to an absolute minimum. The continuing welfare of people and nation, including labor, lies only in powerful individual initiative.”

When you look at the numbers, the simple fact is that most of the farm subsidies are given to large farms, not the small farmer whose image is used by those lobbying for welfare.  I highly recommend Veronique de Rugy’s Washington Examiner op-ed on this issue. She points out that the median farming household earns a wage 25 percent higher than the median American household. Are these the people who need welfare? (more…)