In the News: Public Affairs Council: The Politics of Risk

Doug Pinkham writes about CPA’s push for new SEC regulations regarding disclosure:

…For the past decade, the Center for Political Accountability (CPA) has argued that corporations that spend time and money on politics are recklessly endangering investors. Where does the risk come from? CPA President Bruce Freed says lobbying and contributing to campaigns can damage a company’s reputation, create conflicts with its trade associations and even expose it to legal problems. He maintains there is “overwhelming concern” about this among shareholders and directors.

As I noted in a post last year, CPA’s evidence is scant. Freed often quotes the Handbook on Corporate Political Activity, published by The Conference Board. The handbook, which features CPA’s code of conduct, was co-authored by none other than Freed, who has taken full advantage of the platform given him by the business research organization. The other proof he offers are CPA-sponsored surveys that include absurdly biased questions about lobbying and campaign contribution practices.

The concern about political spending that does exist among investors has largely been generated by CPA’s savvy media relations and grassroots campaigns. CPA created a benchmark called the CPA-Zicklin Index that purports to showcase firms that have increased their transparency and accountability. (The news media love indexes.) But lest high-ranking companies get too comfortable, CPA tightened its rating system this past year. While some companies did quite well, the group noted the index “also reflects vast gaps that shroud many corporate spenders in secrecy during a bitterly contested election year marked by surging hidden political spending.”…

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