Disclosure of Direct and Indirect Political Spending – CenturyLink (2012)
Resolved, that the shareholders of CenturyLink (“Company”) hereby request that the Company provide a report, updated semiannually, disclosing the Company’s:
1. Policies and procedures for political contributions and expenditures (both direct and indirect) made with corporate funds.
2. Monetary and non-monetary contributions and expenditures (direct and indirect) used to participate or intervene in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office, and used in any attempt to influence the general public, or segments thereof, with respect to elections or referenda. The report shall include:
a. An accounting through an itemized report that includes the identity of the recipient as well as the amount paid to each recipient of the Company’s funds that are used for political contributions or expenditures as described above; and
b. The title(s) of the person(s) in the Company responsible for the decision(s) to make the political contributions or expenditures.
The report shall be presented tothe board of directors or relevant board oversight committee and posted on the Company’s website.
Stockholder Supporting Statement
As long-term shareholders of CenturyLink, we support transparency and accountability in corporate spending on political activities. These include any activities considered intervention in any political campaign under the Internal Revenue Code, such as direct and indirect political contributions to candidates, political parties, or political organizations; independent expenditures; or electioneering communications on behalf of federal, state or local candidates.
Disclosure is consistent with public policy, in the best interest of the company and its shareholders, and critical for compliance with federal ethics laws. Moreover, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision recognized the importance of political spending disclosure for shareholders when it said “[D]isclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.” Gaps in transparency and accountability may expose the company to reputational and business risks that could threaten long-term shareholder value.
CenturyLink contributed at least $1.3 million in corporate funds since the 2006 election cycle. (CQ: http://moneyline.cq.com/pml/home.do and National Institute on Money in State Politics: http://www.followthemoney.org/index.phtml.)
However, relying on publicly available data does not provide a complete picture of the Company’s political spending. For example, the Company’s payments to trade associations used for political activities are undisclosed and unknown. In some cases, even management does not know how trade associations use their company’s money politically. The proposal asks the Company to disclose all of its political spending, including payments to trade associations and other tax exempt organizations used for political purposes. This would bring our Company in line with a growing number of leading companies, including Exelon, Merck and Microsoft that support political disclosure and accountability and present this information on their websites.
The Company’s Board and its shareholders need comprehensive disclosure to be able to fully evaluate the political use of corporate assets. We urge your support for this critical governance reform.