Shareholders and Activists Protest Duke Energy’s Political Spending, Environmental Record

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  • Dale Eisman

Duke’s political spending, including more than $1.1 million spent in support of North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, according to Democracy North Carolina, has become a focal point in the debate over how to pay for cleaning up the Dan River coal ash spill and better protect the public against future spills.

At today’s meeting, Duke shareholders were scheduled to vote on a resolution that would require the company to more fully disclose its political spending, including its support of nonprofit “social welfare” organizations that are not currently required to disclose their donors. According to the 2013 Zicklin-CPA Index of Corporate Disclosure and Transparency, Duke ranked in the bottom fifth of all companies surveyed on several key measures of transparency.

“Transparency and full disclosure are necessary to allow shareholders to assess possible risks related to the company’s political spending. While many other large-cap companies provide disclosure, Duke leaves its shareholders to play a guessing game,” said Laura Campos, director of shareholder activities for the Nathan Cummings Foundation.

“Transparency is not bad for business,” said James Browning, regional director for Common Cause. “Duke is keeping people in the dark about its spending when many companies, including many energy companies, have been moving toward more openness about their role in their political process.”

Added Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, “Only those who have something to hide seek secrecy. Duke has a record of recent bad behavior and should seek to break that pattern by moving to political spending transparency.”

In addition to spending on campaign contributions, lobbying, trade associations and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Duke gained an additional avenue of influence in 2010 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporations have a right to spend unlimited amounts to influence elections. The decision overturned a 100-year-old ban on such spending.

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.