The Effort to Spotlight Corporate Hypocrisy
We are all familiar with the methods elected officials and political candidates use to convince swing voters that they are worthy of trust. McMorris Rodgers (R-CD5, Eastern Washington State), when there is any talk of climate change, consistently uses soothing terms like “renewable” and “alternative energy sources”. If a swing voter squints they could almost imagine that McMorris Rodgers understands the threat of climate change and will vote accordingly. Instead, she counts on constituents not paying too much attention when she casts a vote in favor of oil companies freely releasing methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere. All politicians, especially those in the service of and in debt to corporate donors, hide their true colors to some degree in order to build trust. How many votes would Cathy lose if she openly declared, “Climate science is a liberal plot to damage industry"? With politicians the proof of the their beliefs is in their voting (and sometimes in obscure speeches that don’t get much coverage).
Many corporations engage in the same clever deceit, but the proof of corporate deceit lies in political donations and lobbying, not in voting patterns. Despite the Citizens’ United U.S. Supreme Court case declaring that corporations are persons with free “speech” rights, a corporation is obviously not an individual person with a single brain that has to deal with its own hypocrisy. A corporation is a conglomeration of many people, essentially a small government with people serving on a corporate board and working in the corporation’s marketing department, all paid with corporate receipts to pursue one thing: profit for shareholders. The individual persons working in the marketing and public relations department of a corporation might sincerely believe what they tell the public about corporate intent. Those same people have very little knowledge of people in another department that send out political donations and hire lobbyists. The corporate “person” in corporate personhood is like a body (Latin “corpus”) in which “the left hand doesn’t know [or might not know] what the right hand is doing.”
Without legislation (which the Republican Party staunchly opposes) to reverse Citizens’ United, how can we learn of and influence the actions of corporations? The tools exist in campaign finance law requiring disclosure of political donations. (The tools do not reveal additional vast amounts of dark money sloshing around in Republican propaganda tanks like the Washington Policy Center but these tools are nonetheless a good start.) Data on corporate donations to politicians and political action committees (PACs) is readily available online—but the format and intricacy of the shoveling of money from one coffer to another is byzantine. For starters, each state has its own reporting requirements and website (in Washington State it is the “Public Disclosure Commission”, pdc.wa.gov). On a national level there is the Federal Elections Commission, fec.gov, also with its own rules. It is all there, but digging deeply enough to extract telling information is a full time occupation.
Fortunately, there is at least one independent reporter for whom deciphering and reporting on campaign contributions and corporate hypocrisy is a full time occupation: Judd Legum of Popular Information. His investigations of corporate donations have consequences. Major media pick up on the evidence he presents. The resulting negative public relations get corporate attention. Following the January 6 insurrection many companies announced they would not contribute to those members of Congress who supported Trump’s Big Lie by voting against certification of Electoral College votes. Popular Information has been diligent in spotlighting corporations that have backslid on that promise. A recent example is Lockheed Martin. Recently, Popular Information also published a list of 35 companies that have NOT gone back on their promise. Making oneself aware of corporations practicing and not practicing corporate hypocrisy and spreading that awareness in conversation has an effect on public perception of a corporation, an effect that can influence corporate behavior because it potentially threatens corporations’ reason for being: protecting the bottom line.
I urge you to visit Popular Information, check out Legum’s missives, sign up for his email, and financially support his effort by buying a subscription.
Keep to the high ground,