Corporate Political Spending: Background

This page contains background information on corporate political spending, including articles, websites and links to organizations.


Corporate Political Spending: Policies and Practices, Accountability, and Disclosure
The Conference Board (2012)

Handbook on Corporate Political Activity: Emerging Corporate Governance Issues
The Conference Board (2010)

The Non-Expert Agency: Using the SEC to Regulate Partisan Politics
Forethcoming Harvard Business Law Review (2013)

Fulfilling Kennedy’s Promise: Why the SEC Should Mandate Disclosure of Corporate Political Activity
Harvard Law School and Public Citizen (2010)

Corporate Political Speech: Who Decides?
Harvard Law Review (2010)

Corporate Governance and Corporate Political Activity: What Effect Will Citizens United Have On Shareholder Wealth?
Harvard University (2010)

How Companies Influence Elections: Political Campaign Spending Patterns & Oversight at America's Largest Companies
Sustainable Investments Institute and IRRC Institute (2010)

Corporate Campaign Spending: Giving Shareholders A Voice
Brennan Center for Justice, New York University (2010)

Corporate Political Contributions: Investment or Agency?
University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management (2009)

Primer on Corporate Political Spending
The Center for Political Accountability (2007)

Corporate Political Contributions and Stock Returns
The Journal of Finance (2009)


A Case for the Status Quo: Voluntary Disclosure
Harvard Business Law Review (October, 2013)

Nonprofits Are Balking at Law on Disclosing Political Donors
The New York Times (August 20, 2013)

SEC pressed to abandon corporate political spending disclosures petition
The Washington Post (May 16, 2013)

Most Oppose Unlimited Corporate Campaign Spending
Associated Press (July 17, 2012)

One Thing Can Stop Corporations From Buying the 2012 Election: Transparency
The Atlantic (September 13, 2011)

SEC proposal would disclose political donations by public companies
The Washington Post (August 31, 2011)

Corporate Political Donations: Ties that Bind
Corporate Board Member (August 9, 2011)

Limitations on Contributions Would Undercut Directors
New York Law Journal (July 28, 2011)

11 Reasons Why We Need the Shareholder Protection Act
Business Ethics (July 13, 2011)

Congressional Democrats Seek Corporate Disclosure Post-Citizens United
Huffington Post (July 13, 2011)

U.K. Law Does Not End Corporate Political Spending; Researchers Examine British Law to Address Impact of Citizens United
Newswire (June 17, 2011)

Businesses' Right to Free Speech (Point/Counterpoint)
NACD Directorship Online (June 14, 2011)

Accountability Needed on Political Spending (Point/Counterpoint)
NACD Directorship Online (June 14, 2011) 

Transparency v. Free Speech
National Journal Daily (May 22, 2011)

Shareholders Want More Transparency on Political Spending - Subscription required
Compliance Week (April 19, 2011)

Duking it out: The pitfalls of corporate political activity (March 4, 2011)

A Cautionary Tale of Corporate Political Spending Emerges in Minnesota
ABA Journal (October 22, 2010) 

Higher Corporate Spending Could be All But Invisible
ProPublica (March 10, 2010) 


The Corporate Lobbying Proxy War
The Wall Street Journal (April 28, 2013)

How the Big Money Finds a Way In
The New York Times (September 19, 2011)

Fulfilling the promise of 'Citizens United'
The Washington Post (September 6, 2011)

Serving Shareholders and Democracy
The New York Times Editorial (August 9, 2011)

The Supreme Court Had Its Say. Now Let Shareholders Decide.
The New York Times (May 15, 2011)



The Case for Transparency in Corporate Political Spending
The CLS Blue Sky Blog (January 30, 2013)

Citizens United is bad for business, too
The Hill's Congress Blog (July 16, 2012)

Can shareholder activism affect corporate political spending?
Thomson Reuters News & Insight (July 7, 2012)

Global Investors Call for Political Discolsure Rule
ISS Governance Blog (August 30, 2011)

Corporate Political Spending Issue Now at SEC’s Doorstep
The Governance Center Blog (August 11, 2011)

Toward SEC Rules on Disclosure of Political Spending
The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation (August 4, 2011)

Shareholder Protection Act of 2011: Preemption, Prevention and Protection (July 26, 2011)

It's baaack: The Shareholder Protection Act
Truth on the Market (July 14, 2011)

A Re-Introduction of the Shareholder Protection Act
The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation (July 14, 2011)

NYC leaders using City pension funds to stifle political speech
Center for Competitive Politics Blog (July 13, 2011)

Protecting Shareholders after Citizens United
Brennan Center for Justice Blog (July 13, 2011)

Spider-Man, Stephen Colbert and the Shareholder Protection Act
The Hill's Congress Blog (July 12, 2011)

ExxonMobil 2011: In Light of Tomorrow’s AGM
Government Metrics International Founder's Forum (May 24, 2011)

Eighth Circuit: Companies Must Disclose Campaign Spending Law Blog (May 16, 2011)

Corporate Political Spending Post-Citizens United
Founders Forum (April 20, 2011)

Trade Association Contribution Disclosure at Heart of Investor/Company Post-Election Debate
The Conference Board Governance Center Blog (November 9, 2010)

Political Handbook: Political Engagement Programs Need to be Monitored
Governance Center Blog (November 2, 2010) 

Legislation & Regulation

Here are some resources to understand the current activity in state and federal legislation and regulation regarding corporate political spending.

H.R. 2517: Shareholder Protection Act of 2011
Shareholder Protection Act of 2011, 112th Congress

H.R. 2728: Corporate Politics Transparency Act of 2011
Corporate Politics Transparency Act of 2011, 112th Congress

H.R. 5175 (S. 3628): Disclose Act
The Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections Act (DISCLOSE Act) 111th Congress

H.R. 4790: Shareholder Protection Act of 2010
Shareholder Protection Act of 2010, 111th Congress

Committee on Disclosure of Corporate Political Spending Petition for Rulemaking (File No. 4-637)
The Committee on Disclosure of Corporate Political Spending (August 3, 2011)

Comment Letters on Petition 4-637


The information listed below is sourced from the web sites of each organization.


The Center for Political Accountability
"The Center for Political Accountability (CPA) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that was created in November 2003 to bring transparency and accountability to corporate political spending. It was formed to address the secrecy that cloaks much of the political activity engaged in by companies and the risks this poses to shareholder value."

The Committee for Economic Development
"CED is a non-profit, non-partisan business led public policy organization. CED is dedicated to policy research on major economic and social issues and the implementation of its recommendations by the public and private sectors. Membership is made up of some 200 senior corporate executives and university leaders who lead CED’s research and outreach efforts."

Corporate Reform Coalition
The Corporate Reform Coalition is a coalition of organizations and individuals committed to tackling the "overwhelming influence of corporate America on our elections in the post-Citizens United world through Shareholder protection."

The Council of Institutional Investors
"The Council of Institutional Investors (CII) is a nonprofit association of public, union and corporate employee benefit funds, and foundations/endowments, with combined assets that exceed $3 trillion, and a leading voice for good corporate governance and strong shareowner rights. "

Public Citizen
"Public Citizen serves as the people’s voice in the nation’s capital. Since our founding in 1971, we have delved into an array of areas, but our work on each issue shares an overarching goal: To ensure that all citizens are represented in the halls of power."


Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending
"The Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending includes municipal and state government leaders from across the country committed to ensuring that corporations are more accountable and transparent with their political spending."

Institutional Investors

Calvert Investments
"An investment management company serving institutional investors, workplace retirement plans, financial intermediaries and their clients, Calvert Investments offers more than 40 equity, bond, cash, and asset allocation strategies, of which many feature integrated environmental, social, and governance research. By combining rigorous analysis with independent thinking, our disciplined approach to money management goes beyond traditional factors in order to discover investment opportunities with greater long-term potential. Founded in 1976 and based in Bethesda, Maryland, Calvert Investments manages over $14.5 billion in assets." 

Domini Social Investments
"We are an investment firm specializing exclusively in socially responsible investing. We manage funds for individual and institutional investors who wish to integrate social and environmental standards into their investment decisions.  "

Green Century Funds
"At Green Century, we also believe green investing is about more than just avoiding certain companies.  Environmentally-destructive practices and policies are not just bad for the planet – they can also create significant risks and disadvantages for companies.  Therefore, we are committed to using the ownership stake in the companies held by the Green Century Funds to advocate for improved environmental performance and more sustainable business practices. Since our founding, Green Century has engaged over one hundred companies through shareholder advocacy, helping them to improve their environmental performance, decrease risk, and capture opportunities."

The New York City Pension Fund
The New York City Pension Fund is a coordination of New York City's five City Public Pension Funds, totaling over 120 billion dollars in assets.

The New York State Common Retirement Fund
"The New York State Common Retirement Fund (CRF or the Fund) holds assets in trust for more than one million employees and retirees from State governments, most local governments and some public authorities. State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli is the sole trustee and manager of the CRF."

"TIAA-CREF is a leading financial services organization with $453 billion in combined assets under management (as of 12/31/10). The firm is a leader in helping those in the academic, medical, cultural, governmental and research fields plan for and live in retirement." 

Trillium Asset Management
"For nearly three decades, an important component of our mission statement has been our dedication to maintaining “…a work environment in which ownership, responsibilities and rewards are widely shared.” We also believe in transparency. As a regulated financial services company, there is a great deal of information publicly available, filed annually with the S.E.C. However, we are also committed to moving beyond legally required disclosure to disclose that which we ask of public companies." 

Walden Asset Management
"Walden Asset Management has been a leader in socially responsive investing since 1975, managing our clients' assets to meet both their unique financial and environmental, social and governance (ESG) objectives.  While many investors are satisfied with competitive returns, our clients want to achieve that and more. They value working with an asset management firm that pursues a rigorous, disciplined investment approach.  At the same time, they understand that with share ownership comes the potential to influence how companies conduct their business, and they wish to pursue this opportunity." 



The list of organizations above is not exhaustive and intended to provide an overview of some of the organizations active in the area of corporate political spending.

The Conference Board does not represent that the data, information, analysis, conclusions or opinions provided by the listed Internet resources are correct or complete.  The Web sites and resources listed above are included for informational purposes and convenience only, and are not affiliated with, endorsed or recommended by The Conference Board.

Updated: 8/21/2013

Download the Advanced Copy of the Committee's Report

Released at the October 2011 Symposium, the advanced copy of the Committee's report is now available.

Download the Advance Copy

Handbook on Corporate Political Activity

This handbook offers an overview of the legal rules and standard practices related to political activity, as well as a discussion of internal oversight of political spending.

Download the report

  • Human Capital
  • Back to Top