Bank of America 2013 Shareholder Resolution

PROHIBIT POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS FROM CORPORATE TREASURY FUNDS

WHEREAS:

Corporate political spending is a highly contentious issue, made more prominent in light of the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court case that affirmed companies’ rights to make unlimited political expenditures to independent groups.

Corporations contributed to the estimated $6 billion spent on the 2012 electoral cycle through direct contributions to candidates and parties, ballot referenda, 527 committees and super PACs, as well as indirectly through trade associations and 501(c)4s, which do not have to reveal their donors. For example, the US Chamber of Commerce pledged to spend $100 million during the 2012 election cycle to support candidates focused on corporate concerns. According to Public Citizen, only 32% of groups broadcasting electioneering communications during the 2010 primaries revealed the donor identities in their Federal Election Commission filings.

In February 2010, 80% of those polled by ABC News/Washington Post opposed the Citizens United decision – across party lines. More recently, 80-90% of respondents in a Bannon Communications poll agreed, across party lines, with the following statements: there is “too much money in politics”; corporate political spending “drowns out the voices of average Americans”; corporations and corporate CEOs have “too much political power and influence”; and corporate political spending has made federal and state politics more negative and corrupt. 

Political spending can backfire on reputation and bottom line. In 2010, Target and Valero received unwanted attention, consumer boycotts, and protests for their support of controversial candidates and ballot measures. Seventy-nine percent of those polled by Bannon said they would boycott a company to protest its political spending; 65% would sell stock in the company; over half would ask their employer to remove the company from their retirement account.

Bank of America's political action committee and employees have given $16.84 million to federal candidates for office since the 2002 election cycle (Center for Responsive Politics). At the state level, the Bank, its subsidiaries and employees have given over $8.4 million to candidates since 2003. An unreported amount was expended to ballot referenda, political convention host committees, trade association political spending and/or other politically oriented recipients.

A growing number of companies have discontinued political spending either directly or through third parties (Sustainable Endowments Institute).

RESOLVED:

The shareholders request that the Board of Directors study the feasibility of adopting a policy prohibiting the use of treasury funds for any direct or indirect political contributions intended to influence the outcome of an election or referendum, and report to shareholders on its findings by May 2014.

SUPPORTING STATEMENT:

Recent academic work has highlighted the risks of corporate political spending to the broader economy (Igan, 2009), and some studies suggest it correlates negatively with shareholder value (Coates, 2012). Given the risks, potential negative impact, and questionable value of corporate political spending, we believe a prudent policy would include an end to direct political giving, and an end to indirect giving by instructing trade associations and other nonprofits not to use Bank of America’s contributions, dues or fees toward political ends. 

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