Bloomberg News

California Treasurer Seeks Company Political-Spending Disclosure

June 01, 2011

June 1 (Bloomberg) -- California’s treasurer is urging the state’s two biggest public pension funds, with $391.1 billion of assets, to push shareholder initiatives requiring companies they invest in to disclose political spending.

The need for increased corporate disclosure and board oversight is greater since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, said Treasurer Bill Lockyer, a Democrat who sits on the governing boards of both funds. The court allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts on ads advocating a candidate’s election or defeat.

The Washington-based Center for Political Accountability, which lobbies businesses to publicize campaign expenditures, said that almost three dozen companies are being asked at annual meetings this year to vote on shareholder resolutions requiring disclosure. The issue has gained potency since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.

“Whether or not such contributions can be kept secret, legally or practically, anonymous political spending denies investors the means to evaluate their companies’ overall spending practices and priorities,” Lockyer said in a letter to board members of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System.

Opponents of disclosure say that companies could be targeted for their donations. Minneapolis-based Target Corp. faced criticism from gay-rights advocates and calls for a boycott after donating to a business group supporting Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, an opponent of same-sex marriage.

President Barack Obama is considering issuing an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose contributions to political groups.

--Editors: Stephen Merelman, Ted Bunker

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Marois in Sacramento at mmarois@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net


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