Corporate Donations Increasingly Benefit Left-Wing Causes

July 7, 2008 - 7:02 PM

( - American business corporations give far more money to organizations seeking bigger government than to those seeking less regulation, less welfare spending and lower taxes.

This was the conclusion of a recent in-depth study of corporate giving by the 250 largest publicly held companies to nearly 500 public affairs organizations. The study was conducted by the Capital Research Center (CRC), a non-profit research organization.

The key findings of Patterns of Corporate Philanthropy: The Advocacy Masquerade, found that in 1996 - the most recent year for which data were available - major corporations gave $4.61 to organizations on the "big-government Left" for every $1 they gave to conservative and free market groups on the right.

In 1996, 137 of the largest publicly-held corporations gave away $39 million to liberal policy groups and left-wing activist organizations while contributing just over $8 million to groups that support limited government.

"These figures are a drop in the bucket in the U.S. economy, but they make a real difference to nonprofits that formulate and promote public policy," the study said.

Freddie Mac, Sara Lee, PNC Bank and J.P. Morgan & Company led the list of companies giving to left wing causes. Cigna, Dow Chemical and McDonnell Douglas led the list of "the best corporate givers."

The flood of renewed support for left-wing causes reverses a 1995 surge in funding to the right, the study said.

Some 150 of the 250 companies surveyed failed to respond to written requests for 1996 data. Seventy companies declined to participate, and many others failed to return messages. Only 57 companies voluntarily provided information for the study, and only 30 fully provided the comprehensive data researchers requested, the study said.

In 1998, donations to charity reached $174.5 billion, and half of all donors earn less than $50,000 annually. With an expanding economy and more money around than ever before, charitable giving is reaching unprecedented levels and philanthropy is a growth industry as America enters the 21st century.

"Although the benefits of corporate giving are sometimes intangible, responsible corporate philanthropy can create the kind of win-win situations we find in rational economic transactions," said James Glassman of the American Enterprise Institute, in the study's preface.

But many publicly-held companies support liberal interest groups, which "masquerade as charities even when their mission consists entirely of big-government advocacy. The fact that so many companies conceal these gifts calls their stewardship into question. One wonders what they have to hide," he said.

Large corporations are increasingly reluctant to publicize the details of their giving. When the CRC conducted an informal study of the web sites of over 200 leading companies, it found that less than half posted any contributions data on the Internet. Only a fraction posted itemized lists of grantee organizations, and still fewer posted the dollar amounts of individual grants.

"Unfortunately, most corporations are not telling their shareholders about a significant aspect of their operations: their decisions to commit millions of dollars in company funds to philanthropy. Corporate philanthropy deserves shareholder scrutiny," the study said.