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August 13, 2013

Another Majority Vote for Political Spending Disclosure
    by Robert Kropp

A 65% vote by shareowners in favor of increased transparency on lobbying expenditures by Alliant Techsystems follows an even higher vote for a similar proposal at CF Industries. -- A solid majority vote by nearly two-thirds of shareowners at the recent annual general meeting of Alliant Techsystems makes at least two important points. Following an even higher vote in favor of a similar proposal at CF Industries, majority support for the resolution indicates that after years of effort by the Center for Political Accountability (CPA) and its allies, investor concerns over the potential impact on share value of unregulated political spending by corporations have become widespread.

Secondly—considering the fact that Alliant Techsystems is a manufacturer of ammunition, missiles, and warheads—the commitment to social justice long espoused by members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) is being heard, even in an environment that might be considered hostile to such concerns.

The proposal at Alliant, submitted by ICCR member the Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order, requests that the company provide greater transparency on its lobbying expenditures. In the last two years alone, the company has spent nearly $3 million on lobbying activities, yet “does not disclose its trade association memberships, payments or the portions used for lobbying on its website,” according to ICCR.

The resolution was moved at the meeting by John Keenan of AFSCME, the nation's largest public services employees union. “Such disclosure is in stockholders’ best interests because, absent any transparency, company assets could be used for objectives contrary to ATK’s long-term interests,” he said. “Today’s investor vote is resounding confirmation that we are not alone in this belief.”

ICCR board member Fr. Michael Crosby delved more deeply into the social concerns raised by the lobbying activities of a weapons manufacturer.

“Our province of Capuchin Franciscans has been very concerned for over a decade with some of the businesses of Alliant Tech, particularly land mines, as this is a weapon that continues to kill and maim innocent people around the world,” Crosby said. “This concern is only exacerbated when the company moves into guns and then lobbies heavily to thwart legislation that would regulate their use.” Alliant recently completed the purchase of Savage Sports Corporation, an arms manufacturer specializing in shotguns and bolt-action rifles.

“As ATK shareholders we have maintained that we have a right to know how lobbying funds are being deployed to determine whether these activities are in alignment with our company’s stated mission and values,” Crosby said after the vote. “Today, our fellow shareholders made it clear that they are in agreement.”

At the annual general meeting of CF Industries in April, 66% of shareowners voted in favor of a resolution submitted by the New York State Common Retirement Fund. The vote was the largest margin ever for a resolution calling for political spending disclosure.

“The tide has shifted on the issue of political spending disclosure,” New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said. “Shareholders are standing up for transparency and accountability in how shareholder dollars are being used for political purposes.”

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