By Elizabeth Dwoskin, Bloomberg
Two years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that companies could spend unlimited amounts to support candidates, some corporate boards of directors are putting restrictions on their political contributions.
A lot of their angst goes back to the summer of 2010, when Target came under attack for giving $150,000 to a Minnesota super PAC supporting Tom Emmer, a gubernatorial candidate who vehemently opposed gay marriage.
The resulting public outcry overshadowed the retailer’s prior support for such events as Minneapolis’s gay pride parade. Liberal groups called for a nationwide boycott of the chain, and customers posted online videos of themselves returning products to Target stores. Not until Chief Executive Officer Gregg Steinhafel formally apologized to employees did the public relations debacle end.
No company wants to wind up the next Target, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its Aug. 6 issue. Super PACs and other groups are expected to spend $1 billion on this year’s election, and some boards, under pressure from shareholders, are adopting policies that force executives to reveal which candidates and issues they’re putting money behind.
Target’s “an example that I think will be around for a long time,” says Dan Bross, senior director of corporate citizenship at Microsoft, which doesn’t give money to super PACs.
Halliburton directors decided this year to tell investors which trade associations it belongs to and to disclose what portion of its dues goes toward campaigns. Hershey is disclosing contributions even to groups that are allowed by law to keep donors secret. Tenet Healthcare, State Street, Chubb, Safeway and Kroger also told stockholders they would adopt or strengthen disclosure policies this year.