Corporate giving to ballot measures

Major corporations have varying policies on whether and how they give to ballot measure campaigns. The Center for Public Integrity reviewed 55 publicly traded companies and top corporate givers to ballot measures and found nine companies that gave to ballot measures seemingly unrelated to their business interests, even when they had policies limiting such giving.

Company Industry Policy wording Unrelated giving Company response
Altria Group Inc. Tobacco "Altria Group and its companies advocate on a wide range of public policy issues that affect our business."
  • $100,000 to support Propositions 1 and 2 in California in 2014 (government financing)
  • $500,000 to support Propositions 1A-1F in California in 2009 (budget reform)
"These are long-standing policies and procedures that guide our involvement in the political process."
AT&T Inc. Communications Political contributions are for the good of "AT&T, our industry, and ultimately the free-market economy." The company is politically involved for "the long-term interests of AT&T stockholders and employees."
  • $25,000 to support Proposition 41 in California in 2014 (housing for veterans)
  • $125,000 to support Propositions 1 and 2 in California in 2014 (government financing)
  • $50,000 to support Proposition 6 in Texas in 2013 (water issues)
  • $125,000 to support Propositions 1A-1F in California in 2009 (budget reform)
  • $2,500 to support Proposition 4 in Texas in 2009 (more money for research universities)
  • $5,000 to oppose Question 3 in Maine in 2009 (school consolidation)
No response.
Coca-Cola Co. Food & Beverage "We’re looking for long-term, sustainable growth of our global beverage business."
  • $12,500 to oppose Question 3 in Maine in 2009 (school consolidation)
"Education is one of the keys to socioeconomic development in the communities in which we operate. Coca-Cola helps to create, build and encourage educational programs for students around the globe."
Exxon Mobil Corp. Oil & Gas Political contributions may go to ballot measure campaigns that would have "an important impact on the business of the corporation."
  • $100,000 to support Propositions 1A-1F in California in 2009 (budget reform)
  • $100,000 to oppose Proposition 89 in California in 2006 (public funding for elections)
"Our contributions to those ballot measures are consistent with our policy and enable us to communicate our positions on initiatives that are important to our company. We have a responsibility to our customers, employees, communities and shareholders to represent their interests in public policy discussions that impact our business."
Nike Inc. Athletic Wear Nike allows giving that is "beneficial to the long-term business interests" of the company and that will "protect or enhance shareholder value."
  • $50,000 to support Measure 90 in Oregon in 2014 (top-two primaries)
  • $3,300 to support Measure 89 in Oregon in 2014 (women's rights)
  • $5,000 to support Referendum 74 in Washington in 2012 (gay marriage)
"Political contributions by Nike Inc. are based on a number of factors including, but not limited to, the merits of the ballot initiative, including the potential direct or indirect impact to our business."
Sempra Energy Electric Utility “Political contributions are made to candidates, political parties, Political Action Committees, and ballot measures in furtherance of public policies that support the company’s business interests.” — 2012

“Sempra participates in public policy debates on topics that affect our business, engaging with relevant industry groups and making contributions to political candidates, parties, and ballot measures as allowed by federal, state, and local law.” — 2009

  • $10,000 to support Proposition 41 in California in 2014 (veterans housing)
  • $25,000 to support Propositions 1A-1F in California in 2009 (budget reform)
"Political contributions are occasionally made to ballot measures to further public policies that support the company’s business interests, the industry and/or the communities in our service territories."
Time Warner Cable Inc. Communications "The Company does not use corporate funds to support or oppose ballot measures, except in those instances where the proposed measure will have a direct and material impact on the Company."
  • $46,071 to support Proposition 6 in Texas in 2013 (water issues)
"Like many other businesses across the state, we felt that without a dramatic response, historic drought could seriously affect vital aspects of our business: residential and business customer growth, as people left the state or had less money to spend; the cost of energy and other costs of serving our customers; and our ability to attract and retain outstanding talent in our local workforce."
Waste Management Inc. Waste Disposal "All political contributions are to promote the business interests of the company."
  • $10,000 to oppose Question 3 in Maine in 2009 (school consolidation)
"The 2009 ballot initiative in Maine was one we engaged in, as we believed that a stable and predictable budgeting process at the state level was something that aligned with our local business interests."
Wells Fargo & Co. Banking "Wells Fargo participates in state and local ballot measures ... that impact our various lines of business."
  • $25,000 to support Proposition 1 in Texas in 2014 (transportation)
  • $9,539 to support Proposal 12-2 in Michigan in 2012 (collective bargaining)
  • $10,000 to support Proposition 4 in Texas in 2009 (more money for research universities)
"We have no comment."

Source: Corporate websites, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings, National Institute on Money in State Politics