Bank of America shareholders will vote at their annual meeting this week on two proposals to limit or disclose political spending by the behemoth bank. After the Supreme Court’s disastrous decision in Citizens United v. FEC gave corporations and unions much greater power to influence our elections through political spending, it’s now up to shareholders to insist on responsible corporate governance to protect our democracy and their investments from the risks of this spending.
Because many organizations working in politics—like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—don’t have to disclose their donors, it’s impossible for us to know how much, if any, money Bank of America gives to these secretive groups. But, here’s what we do know: the bank perennially has one of the top lobbying presences in the country and also makes one of the highest levels of contributions to political candidates, through its political action committee and executives.
Here are some key facts about Bank of America’s political spending (based on our analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics):
- In the past 10 years, from 2002 to 2011, Bank of America has spent over $25 million on lobbying to pass legislation benefitting the banking industry and to avoid regulation.
- Bank of America also poured big bucks into getting bank-friendly politicians elected. Since the 2002 election cycle, the company’s PAC and employees have donated approximately $12.86 million to federal candidates and committees. This election looks on pace to match their 2008 record of $2.99 million, with $1.70 million in donations reported so far in 2012.
- The top recipient of Bank of America money in 2012 is presidential candidate Mitt Romney at $277,850 in donations. President Obama comes in second with $65,279.
- Members of the House Financial Services Committee have received $253,303 in donations so far this cycle. Again, this is just the money that has to be disclosed publicly.
For the sake of shareholders safeguarding their investments and all the Americans who depend on a government promoting the interests of all citizens, not just the ones with the biggest checkbooks, we can hope that these resolutions are successful and only the start of a larger movement to reverse the influence of big money in politics.