Corporate Disclosures of Political Contributions Shed Light on Dark Money

This week MapLight and Fast Company published a story documenting how three corporations--Dow Chemical, CVS Health and Southern Company--made large contributions (from $100,000 to $1 million) to pro-Trump dark money group America First Policies, a group whose leadership has previously made racist, sexist, bigoted and pro-Nazi statements. The story provides some fascinating insight into how companies which lobbied for corporate tax cuts, sought government approval for corporate mergers and lobbied for reversal of environmental regulations have directed large political contributions to a pro-Trump advocacy organization staffed by former Trump campaign officials. The story is also notable for how it used corporate disclosures of political contributions to provide insight into a 501(c)4 "dark money" group, which is otherwise not required to disclose its donors. 

Post-Citizens United, 501(c)4 groups have been a major conduit for secret and unlimited corporate political contributions and nothing in current campaign finance law or SEC regulations compels the public disclosure of these groups donors. However, thanks to corporate shareholder resolutions, it has become increasingly common for major corporations to voluntarily disclose their giving to these dark money groups. 

 An excerpt from the Center for Political Accountability's 2017 CPA-Zicklin Index report, showing trends in corporate policies requiring disclosure or prohibiting political contributions. 

An excerpt from the Center for Political Accountability's 2017 CPA-Zicklin Index report, showing trends in corporate policies requiring disclosure or prohibiting political contributions. 

The non-profit, non partisan Center for Political Accountability (CPA) has worked since 2003 with corporations and their shareholders to advocate for companies to either disclose or prohibit political contributions. CPA's results have been impressive, and the group provides good resources for researchers to understand the quality of a corporation's voluntary disclosures through their annual CPA-Zicklin Index report, as well as maintaining the TrackYourCompany.org database to track disclosed corporate contributions.