With the help of Comptroller DiNapoli, the New York State Common Retirement Fund is asking the companies it invests in to be more open about their corporate political spending. When companies spend money toward certain political causes, their shareholders may end up footing the bill. And as a shareholder in many large American companies, the Fund wants to make sure its investments are used wisely.
The Comptroller’s Efforts Toward Transparency
In 2010, the Supreme Court decided that corporations could contribute unlimited amounts of money to independent election efforts. Shareholders of these companies may not realize their money gets put toward these efforts. So, after the ruling, the Comptroller pushed for more transparency from the companies the Fund invests in.
One way he accomplishes this is through shareholder requests. These requests ask companies for a full, public report that lists their spending on:
- Political parties
- Ballot measures
- Any direct or indirect state and federal lobbying
- Payments to any trade associations used for political purposes
- Payments made to any organization that writes and endorses model legislation
This knowledge helps the Fund determine if it will still invest in these companies. Ultimately, the Fund wants to make sure its portfolio companies provide a long-term value on its investments, because that value will get passed on to its members, retirees and beneficiaries. If a company’s political spending puts that investment at risk, the Fund can withdraw as it sees fit.
The Fund’s Progress on Disclosure Agreements
The Fund has asked 52 of its portfolio companies to disclose their corporate political spending, and 26 companies have agreed to do so. Over the last year, the Fund has reached disclosure agreements with:
The Fund has taken a leadership role in corporate political disclosure, and Comptroller DiNapoli will continue to make it a priority.