A Center for Public Integrity investigation identifies $185 million that some of the biggest U.S. companies sent to politically active nonprofit groups in about a one-year period surrounding the 2012 election.
The project, which the Washington-based transparency advocacy group released today, looked at the giving by about one-third of 300 large companies that voluntarily disclosed contributions to trade associations and social-welfare groups that organize under section 501c of the federal tax code. The biggest donors include Exelon Corp., Wellpoint Inc. and Microsoft Corp.
According to CPI’s analysis, about 84 percent of the $185 million went to trade associations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a 501c6 organization that’s the nation’s biggest business-lobbying group. The Chamber received funds from 62 of the biggest companies, according to the investigation.
The group’s president, Tom Donohue, said last week that the Chamber this year “will work to protect and expand a pro-business majority in the House and advance our position and our influence in the Senate.”
While more companies are voluntarily disclosing political spending, many others have resisted. After the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 removed limits on independent spending by corporations and labor unions, Democratic-led efforts to require more disclosure of election-related spending by nonprofit groups have stalled in Congress.
“Activists want additional disclosure of political spending so they can target the companies for harassment and boycotts,” Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Blair Latoff Holmes told CPI’s Michael Beckel, the lead author of CPI’s investigation.