CCP issues corporate contribution ‘hypocrisy’ challenge to Brennan Center

The Center for Competitive Politics has issued a challenge to the Brennan Center for Justice, based at the New York University School of Law, to disclose and reject all corporate contributions that don’t carry a waiver from shareholders supporting the agenda of the Brennan Center in advance of its corporate-studded fund-raising gala.

Brennan Center attorney Ciara Torres-Spelliscy recently posted a draft of her paper, “Corporate Political Spending & Shareholders’ Rights: Why the U.S. Should Adopt the British Approach.” The Center for Competitive Politics has addressed the merits of this specific policy question in the Citizens United v. FEC case, but the hypocrisy of “reform” groups like the Brennan Center — which solicit and accept corporate contributions to further their regulatory agenda with no regard to shareholders’ rights — is stunning.

The Center for Competitive Politics hereby offers this challenge to the Brennan Center: Considering the Brennan Center’s stance on shareholders’ rights, the Brennan Center should stop soliciting and accepting corporate contributions unless a corporation can certify that its shareholders support the mission and agenda of the Brennan Center. The Brennan Center should further scour its past corporate contributions and return those from corporations whose shareholders cannot affirm support for the Brennan Center. Finally, the Brennan Center, like most 501(c)3 organizations, exercises its rights to keep its donors anonymous. If its shareholders’ protection argument is sincere, it should disclose every corporate contribution to the Brennan Center.

On Nov. 16 the Brennan Center is hosting its annual Legacy Awards Dinner 2009 honoring Nicole Seligman, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Sony Corporation. The Brennan Center is offering individual and corporate sponsorships ranging from $10,000 to $50,000.

Past honorees, event chairs and corporate donors have included executives at The Coca-Cola Company, Citigroup, UBS Paine Webber, Pfizer, Novartis AG, NBC Universal, The Hartford Financial Services Group and The Travelers Companies, Inc. Disgraced and imprisoned trial lawyer Melvyn Weiss has frequently chaired the dinners.

Brad Smith examined the Brennan Center’s “crocodile tears for shareholder rights,” earlier this month:

Why, many large corporations, including Bear Stearns and Enron, have supported the Brennan Center over the years. Where are the complaints? When did the folks at the Brennan Center return those contributions out of concern for the poor shareholders who may oppose their 401(k)s being used to further the Brennan Center’s agenda?  No, not only doesn’t the Brennan Center mind, they actually are quite active in soliciting such corporate support, with no regard whatsoever for the shareholders whose 401(k)s are being used in this manner. There’s a word for that which, by the way, starts with “H.”

Organizers for the 2009 dinner committee include: Jeff Benjamin, Vice President and General Counsel of pharmaceutical company Novartis AG; Richard Cotton, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, NBC Universal; Paul. A Engelmayer, a partner in charge of WilmerHale’s New York office, who represents Citigroup in its breach of contract case against Wachovia and Wells Fargo, as well as UBS in a class action suit; Gary Ginsberg, Executive Vice President of Global Marketing and Corporate Affairs at News Corp.; Dan Glickman, Chairman and CEO of the industry lobbying group Motion Picture Association of America; Wendy and John Neu, Vice President and CEO, respectively, international metal recycler Hugo Neu Corp; and Brad S. Karp, who chairs Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP — clients include: Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Wachovia, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and ING, among others.