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WASHINGTON – This season, investors have filed 99 political spending disclosure resolutions at shareholder meetings, according to a report released Tuesday by Proxy Preview. At companies ranging from Chevron to Pfizer, shareholder advocates are offering resolutions requiring corporations to disclose their lobbying and contributions to political groups. In advance of the shareholder votes, major advocacy organizations are urging Vanguard to support political spending disclosure in the 2016 proxy season.
Since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, advocates for money in politics reform have used shareholder resolutions as one strategy for achieving greater corporate transparency in political spending. While reformers offered disclosure resolutions at more than 100 shareholder meetings last spring, opposition and abstention from institutional investors, who hold a greater share of the stock market, presents a serious challenge to winning votes. Vanguard, the largest manager of retirement savings in the United States, voted against or abstained from disclosure votes every time they came up in 2015.
“When corporations use secret spending to influence our elections, it’s bad for our democracy. When their secret spending is supported by your retirement plan, it’s even worse,” said Emma Boorboor, Election Reform Campaign Director with U.S. PIRG. “Major mutual funds, like Vanguard, should stand with the families they represent by supporting the shareholder resolutions filed on political spending disclosure this proxy season.”
In November, a coalition of major advocacy organizations launched a campaign urging Vanguard, the largest manager of retirement savings in the country, to change their stance on disclosure-related shareholder resolutions. Since the campaign launched, current and prospective customers have delivered 65,000 emails to Vanguard urging the company to amend its proxy voting guidelines to vote in favor of political spending disclosure. If the company responds favorably, shareholders could win many more resolution votes, creating greater transparency in corporate political spending.
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