Statement for Caremark Rx Annual Meeting
I am Margaret Weber, representing the Adrian Dominican Sisters, Bon Secours Health System, Catholic Healthcare West, the Dominican Sisters of Great Bend, Kansas, proponents of the proposal Disclosure of Political Contributions.
As reported in The Wall Street Journal, a recent survey of investors by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, a leading non-partisan public opinion firm, indicates that more than 90 percent of respondents backed more disclosure of corporate political spending and 84 percent wanted board oversight and approval of such giving. Nearly three-quarters of respondents agreed that corporate giving is often aimed at advancing the private interests of executives rather than the company's interest. Overwhelmingly, shareholders support measures that assure transparency and accountability in corporate political activity.
According to the survey, a striking 85 percent of respondents agreed that the “lack of transparency and oversight in corporate political activity encourages behavior” that threatens shareholder value.
Let me take a moment to clarify a common misperception about company political giving. This resolution has nothing to do with employee political contributions or activities. Instead, it focuses on political contributions made by the company. Current law does not require that those contributions be disclosed. That is why we filed the resolution at Caremark.
Assuming that the company does indeed tract all company contributions made on the state level, and to groups organized under Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code, gathering and posting the information will provide accurate information easily accessible for investors. Indeed, we believe it is a disservice to investors if accurate and complete information on corporate political donations is only available through intensive searching from several sources.
Corporate contributions to 527 organizations are shareholder resources deserving of adequate oversight and worthy of transparency. Board oversight of political contributions gives assurance that corporate funds are not being used in a manner that could be at cross-purposes to the company’s values.
A report from the company will dispel any confusion regarding actual political contributions; assure that shareholders have accurate information; and enhance the reputation of the company for transparency and accountability.
Morgan Stanley, PepsiCo, Coca Cola, Eli Lilly, Schering-Plough, Johnson & Johnson , Bristol-Myers Squibb, Staples, Southern Co. and McDonald’s have agreed to public disclosure and board-level oversight of their political expenditures.
This proposal has received strong support from shareholders : Outback, 18.2% (only 57% opposed res); BellSouth, 12.1%; ChevronTexaco, 14%; IBM, 9+%; Wachovia, 17%; Citigroup, 20%; Washington Mutual, 22%: Wyeth, 25.2%; AT&T, 15.2%.
Vote for Disclosure of Political Contributions.