Monster Energy’s slogan may be “unleash the beast,” but its parent company appears to suffer from scaredy-cat syndrome when it comes to political transparency.
Corona, California-based Monster Beverage Corp. isn’t alone: about one-in-10 of the nation’s largest companies volunteer almost no information about their politicking, according to a new study on corporate political transparency by the Center for Political Accountability, a nonpartisan transparency advocacy group, and the Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
Well-known companies such as Advance Auto Parts Inc., Expedia Inc., M&T Bank Corp., Netflix Inc., Paychex Inc., Urban Outfitters Inc., United Rentals Inc. and Berkshire Hathaway, billionaire Warren Buffett’s holding company, also received zero points on the annual index's 70-point scale that measures companies’ political disclosure practices and published accountability policies.
American Airlines Group Inc., Whole Foods Market Inc., Macy’s Inc., Dollar General Corp. and Hasbro Inc. didn’t fare much better, with scores in the single digits.
In contrast, seven companies received 68 points — nearly perfect scores. Among them: railroad company CSX Corp., power company PG&E Corp. and medical products firm Becton, Dickinson and Co.
Coca-Cola Co., computer chip maker Intel Corp., tobacco conglomerate Altria Group Inc., food giant General Mills and financial institutions Wells Fargo & Co., Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. likewise performed well.
Such high scorers helped drive what study authors say is a years-long trend toward increased corporate political transparency, despite calls from prominent business groups — notably, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — for corporations to not reveal more information than what’s legally required of them.
Across 24 categories, the Center for Political Accountability/Zicklin index awards points to companies that, for example, voluntarily disclose contributions to certain nonprofit groups, publish policies that govern political expenditures from its corporate treasury and reveal money spent to influence state-level ballot initiatives.
From 2015 to 2016, the average corporate disclosure score rose slightly, according to the study. Similarly, the number of S&P 500 companies publicly disclosing their political spending and public policy priorities increased from 2015 to 2016.
Sector-wise, utilities, heath care, food/staples and telecom outfits performed best.