On political spending, 'our goal is not perfect philosophical alignment'

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At least 27 companies that advocated for the U.S. to address global warming as part of the Paris climate accord also collectively contributed more than $3 million to the organization that led efforts to kill a key climate plan domestically.

Many of the donations to the Republican Attorneys General Association were almost certainly not intended to bolster its anti-Clean Power Plan efforts. But their donations from 2014 to 2017 supported politicians whose lawsuit stopped the Obama-era rule from taking effect.

Whether companies’ political spending could collide with their policies or values is one of many items they should consider while navigating the increasingly complex and opaque system that fuels domestic politics, campaign finance experts say. Here’s how the 27 companies explained their approaches and how much money they spent. (Check out the full story here.)

Airbnb

Did not respond

Bank of America

Did not respond

Best Buy

Our commitment to climate change couldn’t be more clear: We support the United Nations Climate Agreement.  We have reduced our own carbon emissions by nearly 50 percent over the past eight years; we now have a fleet of more than 1,200 hybrid vehicles; and we have kept more than 1.5 billion pounds of e-waste out of landfills. The fact that we belong to both the Republican and Democratic attorney general groups reflects only that we do business in all 50 states.

Citigroup

We support a range of candidates and organizations who share our commitment to a strong financial services sector that enables widespread economic growth. That does not mean that we are in agreement with every individual and organization we contribute to on every issue. We have been outspoken in our views on climate change, and we are committed to our work with clients and partners to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Coca-Cola

As a non-partisan business, we support a broad array of organizations and candidates across the political spectrum. In the United States, our contributions are given on the basis of many considerations – there is no one-size-fits-all approach. At times, the individual views of the organizations we support may vary from our own, which is okay by us because our goal is not perfect philosophical alignment.

Regardless, we remain focused on our efforts to achieve our goal to reduce the carbon footprint of the drink in your hand by 25% by 2020 and have worked for several years to reduce our impact on climate. We are on track to meet this commitment having achieved a 14% carbon reduction by the end of 2015.

Corning

At no time has Corning Incorporated or the Corning Political Action Committee ever made a contribution to any Attorneys General Association, including the Republican Attorneys General Association.

In June of 2016 Corning announced the strategic realignment of its ownership of Dow Corning Corporation, which we are no longer involved as an equity investor.  Dow Corning was a joint venture between Dow Chemical Corporation (which assumed full ownership) and Corning Incorporated.  The Dow Corning Corporation had its own management structure and Corning was never a part of the day-to-day management or decision making process at Dow Corning.

I cannot speak to any possible donation that the Dow Corning Corporation may have made … We were strictly an equity investor in this joint venture.

Dow Chemical

Did not respond

DuPont

DuPont is a large, diverse company with facilities and employees in many states and a wide variety of interests.  We regularly engage with bipartisan organizations such as the National Governors Association, as well as groups affiliated with Republicans and Democrats.

We continue to believe that U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement would benefit both the U.S. economy and the climate. We remain committed to working with governments, companies, NGOs and others to bring solutions to the market that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs, and enhance U.S. competitiveness.

eBay

Did not respond

Exxon Mobil

The following website link contains a significant amount information regarding political contributions and lobbying, including reports. Pasted below is an excerpt from the website regarding political lobbying and advocacy. Also pasted below is a table containing corporate contributions.

http://corporate.exxonmobil.com/en/current-issues/accountability/political-contributions-and-lobbying/political-contributions-and-lobbying

Political Lobbying and Advocacy

ExxonMobil engages in lobbying in the United States at both the Federal and State levels to advocate our positions on issues that affect our Corporation and the energy industry. We have a responsibility to our customers, employees, communities and shareholders to represent their interests in public policy discussions that impact our business.

ExxonMobil has an established practice to determine which public policy issues are important to the Corporation. This process includes soliciting input from relevant business lines and functional departments such as Law and Public and Government Affairs. Key issues are reviewed by the Management Committee and Board of Directors of the Corporation. Positions on many key issues are available in the "Current Issues" area of this website. Our lobbying is aligned with those positions.

ExxonMobil provides support to a variety of think tanks, trade associations, and coalitions in order to promote informed dialogue and sound public policy on matters pertinent to the Corporation’s interests. These areas include, among others: fiscal policy, international trade, energy, environment, labor/pension matters, education, civil justice reform, and public health. Our support does not constitute an endorsement of every policy position or point of view expressed by a recipient organization. We conduct an annual evaluation of the merits of each organization and reserve the right to initiate, sustain, or withdraw support at any time. Some of the support provided to these organizations may be used by the firms for lobbying. ExxonMobil reports quarterly the portion of dues used for lobbying purposes in public Lobbying Disclosure Act filings.

Lobbying is highly regulated in the United States. ExxonMobil fully complies with regulations by reporting its federal lobbying to the U.S. Congress in a quarterly lobbying disclosure report. In 2016, ExxonMobil reported federal lobbying expenses totaling $11.84 million in its public Lobbying Disclosure Act filings. This total includes expenses associated with the costs of employee federal lobbying, as well as those portions of payments to trade associations, coalitions and think tanks that are spent on federal lobbying.

ExxonMobil's quarterly lobby disclosure reports are publicly available and can be viewed online at the Senate's public disclosure web site at http://www.senate.gov (search for “Exxon Mobil Corporation" as registrant name). Below are ExxonMobil’s 2016 quarterly reports filed with the U.S. Congress.

Corporate Contributions (000s) - National Political Organizations of State Officials

 

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

Democratic Governors Association

125.0

75.0

125.0

25.0

25.0

Republican Attorneys General Association1 

50.0

50.0

60.0

50.0

50.0

Republican Governors Association

400.0

200.0

500.0

175.0

125.0

Republican Legislative Campaign Committee1    

175.0

100.0

175.0

100.0

100.0

Total

750.0

425.0

860.0

350.0

300.0

Facebook

Facebook provides a similar level of support to the Democratic Attorneys General Association.

In terms of our support for RAGA, or DAGA, or both, I would refer you to Facebook’s political engagement report, specifically the section on Memberships.

https://newsroom.fb.com/news/h/facebook-political-engagement/

I’ve pulled out the language here:

“Facebook belongs to various trade groups and organizations representing diverse views and communities. We seek to participate in conversations about the issues that directly affect our company and the experience of the people who use our service. We chose these organizations because they are engaged in meaningful dialogue about either the Internet or the local communities in which we operate. While we actively participate in these discussions, we do not always agree with every policy or position that individual organizations or their leadership take. Therefore, our membership should not be viewed as an endorsement of any particular organization or policy.”

With specific regard to Paris, you’re right about [Facebook signing on to the climate-focused] We Are Still In. I’d also point you to the comments Mark Zuckerberg made in reaction to the president’s decision:

https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10103765754210171

General Electric

Did not respond

Google

Did not respond

Hewlett-Packard

Hewlett-Packard split into two companies, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and HP, in November 2015; the majority of the political donations were made before that point. Both firms support the Paris agreement.

HP:

Did not respond

Hewlett Packard Enterprise:

HPE has a demonstrably strong record on climate change issues. Our bipartisan involvement with various well-regarded and long-established Attorneys General organizations on important state policy objectives, does nothing to change that. Meg Whitman was one of just 25 CEOs who signed a letter in favor [of] remaining within the Paris climate accord and recently congratulated the governor of Colorado for his proactive stance on climate change. Given these facts, any attempt to portray the company as undermining the fight against climate change would be misleading.

Intel

The amounts you report are correct. While I can’t speak to the specifics of the decisions to donate to RAGA, many of your questions about the divergence in some objectives are addressed in our CSR report and disclosures. To address a few key points, Intel’s Political Accountability Guidelines outline our approach to making political contributions, and Intel received a top five ranking among 500 U.S. companies evaluated in the 2016 CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Political Accountability and Disclosure. We recognize that it is impractical and unrealistic to expect that we or our stockholders and stakeholders will agree with every issue that a politician or trade association may support, particularly given our strategy of bipartisan giving. We aim to support issues that we believe will have the greatest benefit for our stockholders and key stakeholders. We also take actions to make clear our positions on key issues by publicly supporting amicus briefs or other joint policy communications. Intel is fully engaged in shaping public policy responses to climate change, both at the international level and in the countries and regions where we operate. Intel’s Climate Change Policy and Climate Change Pledge outline our approach and commitment on this issue. Intel believes that global climate change is a serious environmental, economic and social challenge that warrants an equally serious response by governments and the private sector.

JPMorgan Chase

We describe our philosophy around policy and engagement and political participation on our company’s webpage.  You can find that here: https://www.jpmorganchase.com/corporate/About-JPMC/ab-political-activities.htm

One key excerpt that I would highlight is:

JPMorgan Chase is regularly involved in legislative initiatives across a broad spectrum of policy areas that could significantly affect our operations and results. We regularly express our views to public officials and provide them with factual briefings to inform their decisions. We monitor legislative activities, analyze trends and advance public policies that will benefit the Firm and our stakeholders.

To help us achieve these objectives, we belong to a number of trade associations representing the interests of both the financial services industry specifically as well as the broader business community. These organizations work to represent the industry and advocate on major public policy issues of importance to the Firm and the communities we serve. The Firm’s participation as a member of these associations comes with the understanding that we may not always agree with all the positions of an organization or its other members. A list of the principal organizations we belong to is available Download a list of the principal organizations we belong to here.

On Paris, I wanted to make sure that you had [CEO Jamie Dimon’s] statement on the withdrawal from the agreement:

“I absolutely disagree with the Administration on this issue, but we have a responsibility to engage our elected officials to work constructively and advocate for policies that improve people's lives and protect our environment."  

You can find out more about our commitment to sustainability here: https://www.jpmorganchase.com/corporate/Corporate-Responsibility/environment.htm

I wanted also wanted to make sure that you saw our announcement on our commitment to be 100% reliant on renewable energy by 20220 and to facilitate $200 billion in clean financing through 2025.

https://www.jpmorganchase.com/corporate/news/stories/how-large-employer-up-ante-sustainability.htm

Lyft

Lyft belongs to a broad array of organizations, including both the Democratic and Republican Attorneys General Associations, where policymakers gather to debate important issues.  While we don't agree with every policy position held by every organization, we do think it is valuable to engage policymakers in conversation, particularly because we are in an industry with new and innovative laws and regulations.  To be clear, we strongly support the Paris Accord and have made bold commitments to support its objectives, most notably a pledge that all autonomous vehicles operating on our platform be powered by 100% renewable energy, and a promise to provide 1 billion rides per year via electric autonomous vehicle by 2025.

Microsoft

I’m following up to provide you with a series of background materials that speak to your questions below and, in particular, help clarify Microsoft’s support for the Paris agreement and the Clean Power Plan. Those statements still stand. The last link also outlines Microsoft’s overall approach to policy engagement, which is publicly available as part of the company’s commitment to transparency. Hope you find these resources helpful for your story.

Monsanto

I can tell you that we contribute equally to both parties in support of their respective Republican and Democratic national organizations.

Monsanto is squarely focused on our commitment to be carbon neutral by 2021. Today we are developing technologies and products to help farmers around the world tackle climate change, while reducing our own carbon footprint. Agriculture is uniquely positioned to deliver climate change solutions, so we are promoting the role agriculture can play in mitigating carbon emissions. Monsanto will continue to work with policymakers and other third parties to support the advancement and adoption of sustainable agriculture in the U.S. and around the world.

Further, we believe agriculture innovation is central to delivering tremendous benefits to farmers and society. We engage in conversations with new and returning elected officials on an ongoing basis. That said, developing new innovations in agriculture can take several years, so we focus on the long-term needs of agriculture. The role of innovation has never been more important to agriculture as the fields of biology and data science offer a range of new solutions for farmers. Farmers are faced with meeting the growing food, feed and fiber needs of an ever-increasing population in an increasingly sustainable way, and helping agriculture address global challenges such as climate change.

Monsanto's participation in the U.S. political process includes contributions to political candidates in a manner that is compliant with all applicable federal and state laws and reporting requirements. All political contributions are made without regard to the private political preferences of our company’s executives and include consideration of Monsanto's interests in legislative or policy-related activity, company facilities and employees in the state, and local political factors. For more information, we invite you to visit Monsanto.com.

Novartis

At Novartis, environmental protection is one of our top priorities. We are committed to policies that facilitate an effective and balanced global response to climate change. We will not comment on RAGA as we are not a member of this association.

PayPal

PayPal is committed to remaining engaged in efforts to preserve the United States’ role as a global leader in emission reduction. Separately, PayPal’s political sponsorships are made to organizations on both sides of the aisle to facilitate dialogue and educate policymakers on the company’s values and business priorities, an effort undertaken to promote positive change for our employees, customers and society as a whole.  

PepsiCo

Did not respond

SolarCity

Declined to comment

Uber Technologies

Did not respond

Walmart

We support the Republican Attorneys General Association, the Democrat Attorneys General Association, the National Association of Attorneys General, the Conference of Western Attorneys General and engage with all of them on a broad set of issues which impact our customers and associates. As a signatory to the We Are Still In initiative supporting climate action to meet the Paris Agreement, and as one of the largest procurers of renewable energy in the United States, Walmart has remained consistent in our climate advocacy and sustainable business practices.

Western Union

Western Union continues to implement comprehensive compliance measures to help protect customers and the integrity of the its global money transfer network.  It is important that attorneys general (AGs) are aware and educated around the advancements Western Union is making these and other areas.

To strengthen its relationships with AGs nationwide, Western Union participates in various attorney general-based organizations – including the Republican Attorney General Association (RAGA) and the Democratic Attorney General Association (DAGA), as well as non-partisan groups such as the Conference of Western Attorney Generals (CWAG) and the National Association of Attorney Generals (NAAG).  The company utilizes memberships within these groups to properly educate AGs and support consumer regulatory and protection initiatives in their respective states.  On average, the company contributes roughly $15,000 annually to both the RAGA and the DAGA.  While the company does contribute financially to both organizations, it does not mean the company is aligned and supports all priorities and positions made by each organization.

Like hundreds of corporations worldwide, Western Union views climate change as a serious global challenge that requires widespread global cooperation.

As a company operating in 200 countries and territories worldwide, Western Union understands climate change impacts its millions of customers all over the world in many different ways.

While the company has not taken a position on the Clean Power Plan itself, being environmental stewards of our lands and working to create a cleaner environment is something the company fully supports.

The company believes the Paris Climate Agreement is a major cog in working to achieve global support amongst countries around the world to help foster sustainable solutions that address climate change, and at the same time, create jobs and economic growth by promoting innovation and technology advancements.

Yahoo

Statement from Oath, the Verizon arm that runs Yahoo after the acquisition of Yahoo in June 2017:

As a global company, it's essential for us to engage with and educate elected officials across party lines on policies important to the tech and media industry. This is a function of our democratic system.