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Companies owned by state retirement fund to disclose political spending

By Kevin Tampone

Date:

Three California companies will reveal political spending of corporate funds under a new agreement with the New York state comptroller.

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced the agreement today. The companies are Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Safeway, and Sempra Energy. PG&E also agreed to provide further disclosures of its policies and procedures regarding political lobbying activities.

The New York State Common Retirement Fund, which the comptroller’s office manages, holds shares in all three companies. DiNapoli and other partners on the Council of Institutional Investors wrote to 430 S&P 500 companies in 2010 asking them to disclose political spending of corporate funds.

Some reached settlements with the retirement fund and DiNapoli has been pursuing shareholder resolutions with others.

“These agreements are a victory for shareholders and another step forward for transparency and accountability in the wake of the Citizens United decision,” DiNapoli said in a news release, referring to the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court case that opened the doors to direct corporate spending on politics. “I am proud that the New York State Common Retirement Fund is in the vanguard of the movement to ensure that companies are acting with the best interests of shareholders in mind when they engage in political action. It is my hope that other companies will follow these companies’ leads by agreeing to fully disclose their political spending activities.”

The fund is promoting disclosure of direct and indirect political spending, contributions to independent committees, and payments to trade association used for political purposes. The agreements commit companies to describe how decisions on political spending are made and the oversight provided by management and boards of directors in the process.

Contact Tampone at ktampone@cnybj.com

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