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Study: corporations placing own limits on political spending

October 29, 2011|By Melanie Mason
(Focke Strangmann / Associated…)

Faced with the option of limitless political spending in a post-Citizens United world, corporations are increasingly choosing to disclose, and in some cases limit, their giving, according to a study released Friday.

The report, created by the Center for Political Accountability and the Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, evaluated companies using numerous criteria, including board oversight of political giving, disclosure practices and restrictions on political spending.

The study's bottom line: 57 companies in the S&P 100 Index now practice voluntary disclosure of direct spending. Two companies, Colgate-Palmolive and IBM, prohibit any spending at all.

"Our findings are striking. They offer hope for increasing corporate political transparency and accountability at a time when everyone expects massive hidden spending to influence elections," CPA President Bruce Freed said in a statement.

With the proliferation of outside groups like "super PACs" that can take unlimited corporate donations, companies can be hit up for cash like never before. Already a staple for presidential candidates, super PACs, which are separate from official campaign committees, are inching their way onto Capitol Hill as well.

This week, first-term Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, sought to form a super PAC as a segregated branch within his own leadership PAC, testing the boundaries of the required independence of these type of groups.

But not all companies are inclined to pony up for these new outside groups. The CPA-Zicklin report found that 24 companies declare on their websites they will not spend money on independent expenditures.

"A significant number of companies recognize the risk associated with political spending and a growing number are not taking advantage of Citizens United, at least directly," Freed said.

The study also named a "top 10"  for political transparency of S&P 100 companies: Colgate-Palmolive Co., Exelon Corp., International Business Machines, Merck & Co. Inc., Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer Inc., United Parcel Service Inc., Dell Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., and EMC Corp.

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