Shareholders Want Disclosure of GE’s Political Spending

Press Release
For Immediate Release - April 24, 2000
Contact: 20sgarnett@ufenet.org">Stacie Garnett
(617) 423-2148 x19

Shareholders Want Disclosure of GE’s Political Spending

Battles to be waged inside and outside GE’s annual meeting

At General Electric’s annual meeting on Wednesday, April 26, in Richmond, VA, a member of Responsible Wealth will present a shareholder resolution calling on the company to report its political contributions, including unregulated soft money contributions and lobbying expenses, as well as its position on campaign finance reform legislation.

 

Update . . . 4/27/00 . . . Preliminary Vote Results

% voting YES: 7%

Note: Shareholder resolutions face a variety of obstacles. For this reason, it is considered significant if a resolution garners at least 5% of the vote. Votes over 10% indicate exceptional shareholder support for an issue.

Filers of "social-issue" resolutions generally don't expect their resolution to receive a majority vote and be adopted by management. Rather, filers use these resolutions to get management's attention, and to raise the issue with other shareholders. They hope to achieve a vote sufficient to allow them to return the next year.

According to SEC rules, a resolution must receive 3% of the vote the first year it is filed, 6% in year two and 10% thereafter in order to be included on the proxy the following year.

 

Corporations spent a record $1.42 billion on lobbying in 1998, up 13% from the previous year, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. The number of registered Washington-based lobbyists rose to 20,512 in 1998, up 37% from the previous year and representing 38 lobbyists for each member of Congress.

GE contributed $960,000 from its political action committee in federal elections in 1999. The company also spent $7.28 million in federal lobbying in 1998, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

"While GE has done well for me as a shareholder, it has drowned out my voice as a voter in this democracy. I don’t want GE or other big campaign contributors to set a political agenda that only benefits corporations," said Judith Barnet, a Responsible Wealth member who will present the resolution at the meeting, to be held in the Landmark Theater in Richmond, VA.

Several other corporations -- General Motors, Monsanto, Honeywell, Ameritech and Time Warner -- have responded to the public outcry against big money in politics and have taken a lead in changing their policies to forbid soft money contributions.

Outside the meeting, over 100 labor and environmental activists will demonstrate in support of several shareholder resolutions calling on GE to become a better corporate citizen in the global economy. According to the AFL-CIO’s Executive PayWatch, "since 1986, CEO Jack Welch has cut GE’s domestic work force by nearly 50 percent while nearly doubling the number of workers employed abroad." In 1999, Welch earned more in compensation and stock options than 15,000 GE factory workers in Mexico combined.

The shareholder resolution is one of 14 filed by Responsible Wealth to encourage companies to share rewards more widely. Responsible Wealth is a growing network of over 450 businesspeople, investors and affluent Americans in the top 5 percent of income and wealth who are concerned about growing economic inequality and working to promote widely shared prosperity. It is affiliated with the national nonprofit organization, United for a Fair Economy.

Click here for a copy of the resolution.

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