Acton Institute Powerblog

ICCR’s Rules for Radical Nuns

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What is it with nuns crusading against corporate lobbying? This fad of recent years has grabbed headlines as orders such as the Sisters of Mercy and the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia gravitated toward political actions as members of shareholder activist group the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. Seems there’s nothing alternately cuter or compelling than a nun “speaking truth” to corporate power as the ICCR nuns do each year in their campaign against lobbying and donations to nonprofit organizations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council.

How any of this has anything to do with Christian praxis or, more specifically, Roman Catholicism is beyond this writer’s comprehension. But the press covers these pointless resolutions which I presume is part of the nuns’ name and shame plan. Somehow, we’re supposed to connect the nonexistent dots between the nuns’ religious authority and proxy resolutions that would require corporations increase transparency of their lobbying efforts. This is merely a smokescreen for forcing companies to abandon ALEC and quit advocating in their own – and their shareholders’ and clients’ – best interests.

For example, The Charlotte Observer reported last week:

The sisters of two Catholic religious orders that own Duke Energy stock want the nation’s biggest electric utility to open up about its lobbying of federal and state officials.

Investors will vote Thursday, at Duke’s annual meeting, on a shareholder proposal to disclose more about its lobbying and membership in industry-friendly advocacy groups.

Duke may have billions of dollars at stake when energy and environmental rules are crafted. The company has spent more than $33 million in federal lobbying in the past six years, records show.

Duke says it already files required lobbying reports. At the urging of institutional investors, the company beefed up its oversight of political contributions and lobbying last year.

The nuns say that’s not enough.

Before proceeding, your writer ecstatically reports the nuns’ resolution garnered only 29 percent support at Duke Energy’s annual shareholder meeting last week. But readers may rest assured the nuns will return next year with more of the same nonsense.

Nonsense? Indeed, the ICCR-endorsed resolutions are nonsense on both religious and secular grounds. There exists no genuine religious reason to defund ALEC or publicly divulge lobbying efforts, despite public records and The Charlotte Observer already disclosing Duke spent $2.5 million on federal lobbying and $800,000 on state lobbying in 2015.

Additionally, Duke lists its Political Action Committee, trade association dues and 527 (tax-exempt political organization) contributions on its website albeit without breaking down the amounts given to the unnamed recipients, which is what really sticks in the ICCR and nuns’ craw.

Nope, it’s not remotely religious in nature but only political. ICCR and its kindly sisterhood affiliates demand more transparency because it makes it easier to name donation recipients in attempts to shame Duke from funding them, and the leftist agenda of ICCR squarely is opposed to ALEC or any group that dares express skepticism regarding climate change and efforts to mitigate it. Your writer recalls no Biblical or doctrinal edict to shut down opposing voices on politicized science, but only a portion of the game plan laid out in Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, particularly those that proclaim “the threat is more terrifying than the thing itself” and “pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it.”

In their actions and resolutions, ICCR and the Sisters of Mercy and Benedictine Sisters act contrary to the best interests of fellow shareholders, Duke Energy and its clientele, by siding exclusively with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan – a radical plan currently stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court due to the tremendous compliance costs inflicted upon energy companies – and extremist environmentalists Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein.

Thank goodness for the shared wisdom of the 71 percent of Duke Energy shareholders who voted against the nuns’ resolution.

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Bruce Edward Walker has more than 30 years’ writing and editing experience in a variety of publishing areas, including reference books, newspapers, magazines, media relations and corporate speeches. Much of this material involved research on water rights, land use, alternative-technology vehicles and other environmental issues, but Walker has also written extensively on nonscientific subjects, having produced six titles in Wiley Publishing’s CliffsNotes series, including study guides for "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." He has also authored more than 100 critical biographies of authors and musicians for Gale Research's Contemporary Literary Criticism and Contemporary Musicians reference-book series. He was managing editor of The Heartland Institute's InfoTech & Telecom News from 2010-2012. Prior to that, he was manager of communications for the Mackinac Center's Property Rights Network. He also served from 2006-2011 as editor of Michigan Science, a quarterly Mackinac Center publication. Walker has served as an adjunct professor of literature and academic writing at University of Detroit Mercy. For the past five years, he has authored a weekly column for the mid-Michigan Morning Sun newspaper. Walker holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University. He is the father of two daughters and currently lives in Flint, Mich., with his wife Katherine.