Corporations Received Billions in Taxpayer Dollars, Yet Spending Is a Secret
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Honeywell and Boeing should listen to their shareholders and commit to fully disclosing their lobbying activity, including of trade associations, Public Citizen said today. The companies are holding their annual shareholder meetings today, and shareholder resolutions to disclose all lobbying are pending at both corporations.
Corporations like Honeywell and Boeing could be set to receive taxpayer bailouts in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and it is important to know whether those funds are going to support workers or to lobby for special favors, Public Citizen said. A company’s political activity – both its election spending and lobbying – also is relevant to its shareholders because it can present significant reputational risk if not disclosed and managed properly.
There has been increasing popularity of shareholder resolutions around political activity disclosure. Last week at Pfizer’s annual shareholder meeting, 20.6% of the shareholders voted to support a lobbying disclosure proposal, according to preliminary vote totals. This is a significant showing of support given that the major mutual fund companies, BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street control over 20% of voting shares at Pfizer and have a history of not supporting these types of proposals.
Both Honeywell and Boeing have histories of undisclosed political activity.
Honeywell sits on the board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent more than $172 million on lobbying in 2018 and 2019, and has been lobbying against the White House’s use of the Defense Production Act to combat the coronavirus. Yet Honeywell’s level of funding of the Chamber is secret.
The corporation has supported the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), which spent $824,000 on television ads in the 10 days leading up to the 2020 Wisconsin Supreme Court election in favor of the Republican candidate. Honeywell gave $372,000 to the RSLC from 2012 to 2016. Honeywell CEO Darius Adamczyk sits on President Donald Trump’s Opening Our Country Council, and the corporate PAC has given $15,000 to Trump political entities.
Boeing, likewise, also is a member of the Chamber and in the past has given $125,000 to the RSLC.
“For years, shareholders have been calling on corporations to be honest about their political activity,” said Rachel Curley, democracy advocate for Public Citizen. “Investors in Honeywell and Boeing probably would like to know if their money has been going to help either side in a contentious state election, or whether it has been going to the Chamber, which has been lobbying against a critical tool we have to fight the coronavirus pandemic.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a rule that would make it more difficult for investors to raise political activity disclosure with their companies. The SEC should not move forward with this rule, which crushes shareholder dissent, especially after companies like Honeywell and Boeing have received taxpayer bailouts, Public Citizen maintains.
Public Citizen is on the steering committee of the Corporate Reform Coalition, a group of investors, academics and advocacy organizations that has fought for full disclosure of corporations’ spending in politics for almost a decade.