Responding to the unprecedented level of outside spending in last year's election cycle, Responsible Wealth has joined a coalition of investors to step up its campaign to press companies to refrain entirely from making political contributions. The coalition, including Clean Yield Asset Management, Green Century Capital Management, Zevin Asset Management, and Harrington Investments, has filed resolutions with Chevron, Bank of America, 3M, Target, Starbucks, ExxonMobil, and the EQT Corporation. Responsible Wealth members filed at Bank of America and Target.
Because of the 2010 Citizens United ruling, so-called “independent” or outside spending in federal elections—made in support of candidates by groups with no supposed connections to their campaigns—contributions increased nearly fivefold between 2010-2012, from $300 million to $1.3 billion (Center for Responsive Politics). Just last week, Demos & the US PIRG Education Fund released a report estimating that for-profit corporations were responsible for at least $101 million in political spending in the 2012 elections, although the actual amount could be up to four times that amount due to vagaries in reporting requirements.
“In 2012, Chevron gave $2.5 million dollars of company funds to a Super PAC—the single largest corporate donation to a Super PAC ever. Shareholders don’t want to pay for Chevron’s political preferences or contribute to the untamed spending unleashed by the Citizens United ruling. It’s time for Chevron to listen to its shareholders and stop throwing millions of dollars into the wind.” - Leslie Samuelrich, Senior Vice President of Green Century Capital Management
At the same time, we’re seeing a rise in public opposition and backlash to corporate influence in the democratic process. In February 2010, immediately following the Citizens United decision, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 80% of respondents opposed Citizens United, across partisan lines. Political spending and lobbying undermine the trust of the consumer.
“By the sheer volume of money involved, dollar democracy by corporations is drowning out individual political voices and undermining the essence of the American political system. ExxonMobil’s huge political donations are symptomatic of this corrosion of democracy, so as shareholders, we have a responsibility to put a stop to this dangerous behavior.” - Sonia Kowal, Director of Socially Responsible Investing at Zevin Asset Management
And contrary to conventional wisdom, campaign contributions may actually stunt the long-term growth of a company. A 2012 University of Minnesota study found that companies contributing to political action committees and other outside political groups between 1991-2004 grew more slowly than other firms, invested less, spent less on research and development, and were linked to poor corporate governance.
By changing their policies around political spending, companies have an opportunity to set a higher standard in business, raising the bar for their competitors. At Target, Bank of America, ExxonMobil, 3M, and EQT, Responsible Wealth and its partners are calling for company directors to conduct a study examining the feasibility of adopting a no-spending policy. Chevron is being asked to completely desist from political giving. And at Starbucks, the request is for a complete end to political spending while also asking the company to refrain from establishing a political action committee, a vehicle for raising and spending money from employees and shareholders.
Responsible Wealth members Marnie Thompson & Stephen Johnson (Greensboro, NC) and RW Director Mike Lapham are currently in negotiations with Target executives and are pressing the company to be more transparent about its process and reasons for engaging in political giving. If Target changes its policy around political giving, it’s possible the bar will be raised for its competitors. Only time will tell, but for now, we’re keeping the pressure on.
CLICK HERE to see the full press release.
Housekeepers nationwide need your help. If you’ve ever stayed at a Hyatt and had a good night’s sleep, you have a housekeeper to thank for your fresh sheets and fluffed pillows. But invisible to hotel guests is the pain and hardship that housekeepers endure to provide us with an atmosphere of comfort and luxury.
That’s why this week Hyatt housekeepers are launching a global boycott of Hyatt. Please take two seconds to support them by voting Hyatt the Worst Hotel Employer in America and supporting the boycott.
Why is Hyatt the worst? Hyatt has replaced career housekeepers with temp workers earning minimum wage. Hyatt housekeepers have heavy workloads that can lead to debilitating pain and injuries. Hyatt has fired women shortly after they have spoken out about abuse and indignities at work. And Hyatt even turned heat lamps on workers protesting these conditions during a brutal Chicago heat wave.
Worldwide, we are calling on two million people to take a stand and Vote Hyatt Worst. By joining together, we will urge Hyatt to change its ways. Please join the boycott, vote them the worst employer in the country and share your vote.
This post was produced by HyattHurts.org. Please support the Hyatt Hurts campaign.
How can tax fairness advocates and businesses effectively bond together to reclaim the myth that progressive taxation is anti-business? This free Tax Fairness Tune-Up webinar will provide insights and practical tips for grassroots organizers and business leaders alike. Register today!
RECLAIMING THE PRO-BUSINESS NARRATIVE: Connecting Grassroots & Businesses Leaders for Progressive Tax Reform
Thursday, March 15 from 2:00-3:00pm EST
Free and open to tax fairness advocates and allies.
This webinar will explore how to effectively integrate businesses into progressive tax campaigns. Presenters will explore commonly-held myths surrounding personal and business success and how tax fairness organizers can effectively reclaim this narrative by working in conjuction with business leaders.
This webinar is appropriate for tax fairness organizers looking to engage business leaders in progressive tax campaigns and business leaders who wish to partner in statewide coalitions for progressive tax reform.
Brian Miller, Executive Director of United for a Fair Economy and co-author of The Self-Made Myth: and The Truth about How Government Helps Businesses and Individual Succeed
Scott Klinger, Tax Policy Director from The American Small Business Coalition
Bob Fulkerson, Executive Director of Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN) and member of the Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative
Today, my colleague (TFOC Coordinator, Karen Kraut) burst into UFE's communications spread with excitement beaming from her every pore:
Maz! I just opened Yahoo to check my personal email, and this was on the front page. It's a video about income inequality! This is really mainstream. Can you believe it?
UFE has been working to raise public awareness of economic inequality for 15 years, so this is certainly call for excitement. Yahoo News' video on income inequality, the first in their "Remake America" series, is accessible and deserving of the most views you can help to generate.
They includes testimonials from struggling people, many of which may sound familiar to you:
I was making a good living. That's basically disappeared.
Back in the day, you had good paying jobs. Now...it's minimum wage. Who can live off $10 an hour?
It doesn't matter how hard I work. I work hard..but I don't get anywhere.
We're still making less, but the prices of everything are skyrocketing.
How do I pay for groceries?
I tried to refinance my home, so I could keep my house, and I was told that I didn't make enough money.
They use social math to place income inequality into context—a messaging strategy that we at UFE regularly employ. The average U.S. worker's salary ($49,445) could pay for 10 months of health insurance, 5 months of college tuition, and buy 10 percent of an average home. On the other hand, the average Fortune 500 CEO's salary ($11.4 million) could pay for 300 years of health insurance, 200 years of college tuition and buy 34.5 new homes.
They connect the dots between economic inequality and the deterioration of other indicators of social wellness. (For more, read The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.)
One interviewee expressed a sentiment that most of us likely share:
I think the most unfair thing is that the people who need help the most are the ones that aren't being listened to.
Perhaps most important of all, they use this video to address just that by asking these regular folks what they think the solutions are.
Some ideas are to reform the existing system: "The rich are gonna be rich. You want to fix that? Get rid of loopholes, fix the tax code!"
Others desire more unity: "I went down to Occupy Wall Street...just to see, does our country have the guts to go through the change that is going to be required?" UFE fully supports the Occupy Movement. We encourage all people to support Occupy Wall Street and their local occupations. Here's how you can get started.
One gent noted with an air of giddiness, "This is an issue that, for the first time in the 30 years that this has been happening, could really have an effect on the election." It could. But as flawed and corrupted by corporate money as our political system is, we'll have to raise the awareness of millions more and mobilize an unprecedented vote for candidates that will challenge this devastatingly unequal status quo.
There is no single thing we can do to bring about the change we need; there are a lot of things we must do on as constant a basis as we can manage. Sharing this video is one of them.