Which Philadelphia corporations give big bucks to politicians and trade associations? And which companies disclose those donations?
The CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Political Disclosure and Accountability, an annual survey of S&P 500 companies, shows how those companies disclose their lobbying and political spending — in particular which public corporations are transparent about campaign donations.
And in an age of backlash against corporate money in politics — think AT&T’s donation via disgraced White House lawyer Michael Cohen — companies are treading more carefully than in past years.
Compiled by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the Washington-based Center for Political Accountability, the 2019 report highlights Greater Philadelphia companies that have improved their disclosures, and others that didn’t, and thus scored poorly.
Among local companies in the S&P 500, American Water Works ranked among the “most improved” company with high scores in 2019, according to author Bruce Freed.
S&P 500 components are ranked out of 100 points for transparency. The CPA-Zicklin Index average score was 47.1 in 2019, compared with 44.1 in 2018.
American Water Works’ score went up to 82.9 from 4.3 last year, which “pushed them into the most-improved for gains of 50 percentage points or more,” Freed said.
Merck again ranked as a “trendsetter” company this year, scoring 90 for the second year in a row. Exelon, which owns Peco, was also ranked as a trendsetter two years running, scoring 94.3.
The student-loan servicer Navient scored 90 points but was recently dropped from the S&P 500 index.
Campbell Soup company scored 80 this year, identical to its score last year, while the cable giant Comcast scored 82.9 this year vs. 80 last year.
“Comcast prohibits donations to 501c4s, and that’s important,” Freed said, since those entities take so-called dark money political contributions. However, Comcast doesn’t disclose trade association payments, which held down its political donation transparency score.
Comcast has a general statement on political and trade association activity, available on its website.
The CPA-Zicklin Index, started in 2009, shows the largest public U.S. companies’ political activity in a high-spending era marked by an unprecedented flood of campaign contributions.
Wilmington-based DuPont “scored poorly, in part because it came together out of two separate companies, combining DuPont and Dow Chemical. Dow had strong policies and DuPont did not,” Freed said.
DuPont scored 8.6, which Freed dubbed a “basement dweller” on the CPA-Zicklin Index. Dow’s score was 84.3.
The chemical company FMC’s political transparency score improved to 47.1 from 18.6, and Freed noted that “company scores can be very dynamic. When a company adopts disclosure and accountability policies, that’s the beginning. We see the company improving over time.”
Amerisource Bergen’s score remained the same this year, 82.9, as did Lincoln National at 88.6 and NRG at 41.4 this year.
Ametek scored 10. Teleflex scored 4.3, and as a new addition to the S&P 500, “this was the first time we evaluated the company.”
Among the other most improved companies are Fortune Brands Home & Security; MSCI; Alexion Pharmaceuticals; Chubb Ltd.; Kohl’s; SVB Financial Group; WestRock; Ball Corp.; PVH Corp.; Ford Motor; Equinix; Lowe’s; Macy’s; Autodesk; and Mondelez International.
Research by the Center for Political Accountability is helping “to end the misperceptions about the level of corporate money influencing politics today. It shows that public companies and their trade associations were dominant and influential political funders at the state level over the past decade,” wrote outgoing Delaware Chancery Court Justice Leo Strine in the forward to the report. A copy is available online at politicalaccountability.net/index.