WASHINGTON – As part of a campaign to bring transparency and accountability to corporate political contributions, the Center for Political Accountability (CPA) is urging Union Pacific Corporation shareholders to support a resolution that asks the company to disclose and explain the business purpose of its political donations.
Union Pacific, the nation’s largest railroad company, currently does not make public its political contributions or tell shareholders how it decides on donations made with corporate assets. The disclosure resolution will be voted on at its annual meeting on April 16 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“Corporate political giving runs the risk of using a company’s assets for objectives not disclosed to or approved by its shareholders,” CPA Co-Director Bruce Freed said. “If companies choose to make political gifts, it is critical that their shareholders are aware of where that money is going and what is the business purpose of the contributions. Making a contribution through a conduit does not absolve the company of its responsibility to know how its funds are ultimately used.”
Union Pacific made $1,032,022 in corporate contributions in the 2002 election cycle. The company gave to conduits that, in turn, contributed to controversial groups like Texans for a Republican Majority (TRM), an organization that played a key part in underwriting the change in control of the Texas House of Representatives in 2002, and to extremist groups such as the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC).
“Union Pacific should be cautious about making contributions that could expose it to possible criminal violations and that could harm its reputation with customers, employees, and shareholders,” Freed said.
Union Pacific’s contributions have entangled it in a Texas investigation into the propriety of some of TRM’s fundraising practices. According to press accounts, areas of interest include the relationship between the railroad and TRM and whether the company’s contributions may have influenced state house races and the contest for Texas House speaker two years ago. Texas law severely circumscribes the use of corporate money in state campaigns and legislative leadership races.