Today's Wall Street Journal featured a piece which discussed the failure of tactics employed by organized labor and activist groups in an effort to "kill business speech" through the proxy proposal process. These particular proposals at issue seek to limit, burden or in some cases disrupt legitimate corporate political activity.
The Journal, citing Manhattan Institute's Proxy Monitor project, reported:
Support for political proxy proposals has fallen significantly at other big companies as well. Overall, according to the Manhattan Institute's Proxy Monitor, in 2012 political spending or lobbying proposals have received an average shareholder vote of 18.3%, compared with 22.6% last year. Could shareholders be getting wise to the political charade?
The disclosure gambit is key to the left's strategy of intimidating businesses from spending on politics to compete with unions and liberal billionaires like Peter Lewis of Progressive insurance. The political bludgeoning will continue, but at least this year the effort to vilify corporations that have exercised their First Amendment rights isn't getting the kind of traction the activists had in mind.
Our own Jim Copland, director of the Proxy Monitor project and Manhattan Institute's Center for Legal Policy, predicted an increase in political spending and lobbying related proposals and is closely tracking the trend in his regular findings.
In his recent finding, Jim discovered that:
Looking at the composition of shareholder proposals with more specificity, a plurality of all proposals introduced to date in 2012 involve corporate disclosure of political spending or lobbying activities, followed by those related to executive compensation and those seeking to separate the positions of board chairman and chief executive officer...
The increase in the share of proposals related to political spending or lobbying is notable and in keeping with a trend witnessed since the Supreme Court's controversial 2010 Citizens United decision, which held that corporate political speech was protected by the First Amendment. In 2012, fully 26 percent of Fortune 200 companies to have filed proxy materials have faced a proposal related to political spending or lobbying, an all-time high.
As the Journal recognized, despite the increase in volume, it doesn't seem that these political spending and lobbying proposals are having the desired effect. At least not yet.