NYC Public Advocate website tracks corporate campaign spending pledges

August 20, 2010
Barbara Clancy, Alliance for Democracy

In his position as Public Advocate for the City of New York, Bill de Blasio acts as an ombudsman between city residents and city government. Ensuring the accountability of elected officials to the public is his job, and to his credit he sees the influence of corporate money in politics as a real threat to the public good.

In a recent piece in The Nation, he writes that the GOP block of the DISCLOSE Act, 90 days before the midterm elections, compels us "to fight back and take on corporations directly."

De Blasio's response has been to demand through his office that individual corporations pledge not to spend money on campaigns. Negotiations with Goldman Sachs led to the banking and securities group agreeing to forgo spending corporate cash directly in elections; talks are now on with Google. And as a resource for public activism, the office has created a website that lists the US's 100 largest companies, and their public stands on campaign spending.

There's a short list of corporations that have pledged to keep corporate treasury money out of elections, including Colgate-Palmolive, Dell, Gilead, IBM, Microsoft and Xerox. A much longer list has made no promises to forgo funding campaigns, and in some cases has refused even to pledge to disclose what spending they do. And then there are Target, Best Buy, Massey Energy, and International Coal, who have already spent on campaigns, or plan to do so, and, in Target's case, are feeling a direct backlash through a well-publicized consumer boycott.

The Corporate Spending Tracker features links to several of the listed corporations' current campaign spending policies, with contact information so that you can urge corporations that haven't firmly committed to keeping out of politics to do so. "It's up to each of us to call one of these corporations," writes de Blasio. "Let them know as consumers who have supported them with our business, we demand that they not spend a dime from the corporate treasury to influence our elections."