For Immediate Release
Contact: Mary Boyle
March 12, 2012
Our Democracy Is Not for Sale
Coalition of Public Interest, Consumer, Labor, and Progressive Groups Announce Major Campaign to Target Companies that Use Corporate Funds to Make Contributions to Super PACs/Non-Profits to Influence the Fall Election
$25,000 Offered to First Employee to Blow the Whistle on Corporate Employer’s Secret Use of Corporate Treasury Money to Affect the Upcoming Election
Washington DC – A large coalition of public interest, government reform, consumer, labor, grassroots and progressive organizations today announced a major national campaign to target corporations that use corporate treasury funds to influence the fall election, especially contributing to shadowy Super PACs or to 501c4s that run ads but are not legally obligated to disclose their donors. Groups include: Common Cause, Public Citizen, Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending (CAPS), Service Employees International Union, MoveOn.org, Americans United for Change, Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), Public Campaign Action Fund, Campaign for America's Future, National People's Action, Progress NOW, Every Child Matters, Health Care for America Now, Occupy Wall Street, and USAction. *SEE BELOW RELEASE FOR MORE DETAILS ON GROUPS’ PLANS.
“It’s bad enough for multi-millionaires to have such power in selecting our President,” said Bill de Blasio, New York City Public Advocate, “but the idea that when a consumer buys a pair of shoes, a TV or gasoline that part of their money should be used by a corporation to support a political candidate is simply unacceptable.”
"The American public has had enough," said Bob Edgar of Common Cause. "'We the people' will not stand idly by while the country's major corporations use their massive wealth to buy our Democracy. We will do all we can to expose the corporate spending that threatens to drown out voters' voices."
Speaking at a press conference convened at the Service Employee International Union (SEIU), de Blasio said, “We are putting every CEO in America on notice: if you choose to use corporate treasury funds to make donations to Super PACs or c4 organizations that are attempting to influence the upcoming election, you should inform your board before you do that you will be subjecting your firm to substantial potential economic risk”.
“The groups gathered here today have the ability to employ a wide variety of different tactics. Some plan to organize consumer boycotts,’ continued de Blasio. ‘Others will run campaigns to move pension fund money from a company’s stock. Others have a proven track record of putting people in the street. Still others will launch stockholder lawsuits or actions at stockholder meetings. Together we will make it clear that a decision by a corporation to use the money it earns from its customers to buy this election will have real consequences.”
“The power of the internet – and social media – have created a new ability for everyday people to stand up and challenge the power of these huge corporations,” said de Blasio. “Just ask the CEO’s of Target stores what happened when they made a contribution to a Super PAC last year – or to Bank of America when it raised its fees.”
Americans United for Change announced that it would offer a $25,000 reward to the first employee who documented that his employer was using corporate funds to secretly contribute to a non-profit organization like American Cross Roads GPS that buys ads to affect the election and is not required to disclose its donations.
“This reward is intended to make CEO’s think again if they believe they can keep corporate donations to politics secret,” Tom McMahon, executive director, Americans United for Change said in a statement. “It is intended to reinforce the fact that in a digital age it is virtually impossible today for a big corporation to be certain that a donation of this type will not become public and materially damage its brand and the loyalty of its customers. Fair warning, Corporate America.”
“When ‘corporations are people’ and their money is speech, it means that the dollars of Wall Street, Big Oil and the insurance companies drown out the voices of ordinary Americans,” said Ethan Rome, from Health Care for America Now. “If corporations want to use corporate dollars to influence elections, they do so at their own risk. We will expose their actions and make sure that their customers and shareholders know how their money is really being spent."
De Blasio said that the new campaign will monitor corporate behavior over the next weeks and then decide which corporations to select as its targets.
“We will choose among any of the corporations who make the mistake of deciding to give to Super PACs or c4’s using its corporate funds – and select several of the most vulnerable to make them an example for the corporate community as a whole,” said de Blasio.
“Here’s the bottom line,” said de Blasio “If you want to make your company a potential target for this campaign, go ahead, make our day.”
EXAMPLES OF WHAT GROUPS ARE DOING
Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending (CAPS) is the nation’s only bipartisan coalition of elected leaders. In the coming months CAPS will organize inside and outside shareholder meetings, participate in efforts to pressure the SEC to do their job, implement a legislative strategy calling for the elimination of corporate contributions to third parties for electioneering purposes, directly engagewith 20 of the least transparent companies, partner with other coalition members, and expand membership in CAPS.
Americans United for Change is offering a $25,000 award to the first employee who can document that his/her employer used corporate funds to secretly contribute to a non-profit organization like American Cross Roads GPS that is not required to disclose its donations and buys ads to affect the upcoming November election.
Common Cause has launched a multi-tiered strategy to place checks on corporate political spending. First, Common Cause has publicly called on corporations to pledge not to spend corporate funds for political purposes. Second, Common Cause is working with institutional shareholders to file shareholder resolutions requesting the corporations they own stock in to stop political spending. Common Cause also plans to hold press conferences and rallies at some shareholder meetings this spring. Fourth, the organization will continue to push the Securities and Exchange Commission to require publicly traded companies to disclose their political spending. Lastly, Common Cause will work to pass federal and state laws requiring corporations to disclose all political giving.
Public Citizen will continue to do public education to ensure a particular brand is associated with political corruption. In addition, we are helping to spearheading the Corporate Reform Coalition, which brings new accountability to corporate behavior by leveraging the power of shareholders. We have amassed tens of thousands of comments to the SEC urging the agency to require corporations to disclose political giving. And this spring, we will be conducting actions at shareholder meetings of three major corporations.
U.S. PIRG has launched a two-prong attack to hold would-be corporate players accountable for any expenditure they make to influence elections. First, we are organizing your shareholders, working with major pension funds, foundations, and endowments to change their stance to oppose corporate political spending. Second, we are organizing your customers on college campuses and in states across the country to publicly expose the worst actors in corporate influence, like the thirty corporations that spent more money lobbying than they paid in taxes called out to shame in our recent Representation Without Taxation report.
Health Care for America Now will continue to expose the health insurance companies’ spending on the public’s premium dollars on political activity, and expose the political spending of the Koch Brothers and their front groups like American’s for Prosperity. Along with several other organizations, HCAN is launching “Shareholder Spring,” one of the next steps in the 99% holding the 1% accountable. HCAN’s focus will be the Wall Street-run insurance companies. At shareholder meetings across the county, they will be push proposals that require companies to stop using corporate dollars for political activity and to disclose whatever spending they do. They will ask the CEOs basic questions: Does laundering millions of dollars through the Chamber of Commerce to attack health care, as they have done, put the reputation of the companies at risk. How it is in the fiduciary interest of their company to support politicians, ballot initiatives and legislation that undermine collective bargaining and when a large percentage of the company’s business comes through America’s labor unions?
Confront Corporate Power: Imagine workers and retirees, families fighting foreclosure and the unemployed, students, immigrants and environmentalists joining together to confront the corporate interests of the 1%…and winning. A broad coalition of groups from cross-sectors-the environment, the economy, labor, students, immigration and more--are doing just that. This spring we are organizing a non-stop campaign on the most abusive corporations leading up to and their shareholder meetings and calling on people from around the country to join us.
Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest, and accountable government that works for the public interest, and empowering ordinary people to make their voices heard.