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One-Third Of Shareholder Resolutions Seek More Disclosure About Political Spending

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Activists block the street in front of the Bank of America building in New York, Tuesday, May 8, 2012. One-third of shareholder resolutions seek for corporations to disclose more of their political spending, according to a study by the Sustainable Investments Institute cited by the <em>Washington Post</em>.
Activists block the street in front of the Bank of America building in New York, Tuesday, May 8, 2012. One-third of shareholder resolutions seek for corporations to disclose more of their political spending, according to a study by the Sustainable Investments Institute cited by the Washington Post.

As the election season heats up, shareholders at major corporations are demanding their companies open up about how much they're spending on political campaigns.

About one-third of shareholder resolutions this year are asking corporations to be more transparent about their political spending and lobbying, according to a recent study by the Sustainable Investments Institute cited by the Washington Post. That adds up to 109 shareholder resolutions on the topic facing votes at annual meetings.

Shareholders may have good reason to demand more transparency, aside from democratic ideals. The more corporations spend on political campaigns, the lower their stock price, according to a recent study.

Still, large political contributions from corporations have become relatively commonplace after the Supreme Court approved unlimited corporate political spending in Citizens United in 2010. In the wake of the decision, corporations have been flooding elections with political contributions large enough to make or break some congressional candidates.

It's not only shareholders that are demanding corporations become more transparent about their political spending, though. Protesters picketed 3M's annual meeting earlier this month to pressure shareholders to approve a resolution to ban political spending. Ultimately 3M's shareholders rejected that proposal.

Protesters also repeatedly disrupted WellPoint's annual meeting last week as they demanded more disclosures about the health care company's political contributions. Again, shareholders rejected the proposal.

Amid a massive protest against Bank of America's shareholder meeting, Trillium Asset Management presented a proposal at Bank of America's annual shareholder meeting earlier this month that aimed to prevent the bank from making political contributions. But Bank of America's shareholders voted it down.

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