The Wall Street Journal launched another attack on the Center for Political Accountability in October, its second in two weeks and third this year. It attempted in an editorial on Oct. 12 to discredit the 2014 CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Political Disclosure and Accountability and CPA’s motives for publishing the benchmarking study.
CPA Director Lawrence Zicklin replied in a letter to the editor published on Oct. 19. The editorial mistakenly portrayed the Center as bullying companies, Zicklin said, despite the fact that almost two dozen companies have publicly touted their recognition by CPA or the Index for good disclosure scores. He said these companies’ public embrace of political transparency showed the “total error” of the editorial’s opinion.
“These major companies are among scores that have recognized the value of disclosure as a good corporate-governance practice. Along with other companies that have received high scores in our benchmarking study, they’re part of a broader movement for transparency that is gaining acceptance by U.S. businesses,” Zicklin wrote.
Zicklin mentioned by name J.P. Morgan Chase, Noble Energy, Exelon , Boeing, Altria, Merck, Intel, Qualcomm, Lockheed Martin and Monsanto. J.P. Morgan Chase said its disclosure evaluation came from a “leading nonprofit oversight organization.”
There was a continuing wave of commentary about the Index, which was published in September (see September newsletter ). The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, repeating earlier criticisms, blogged, “CPA-Zicklin Index is Really a Tool to Silence the Business Community.”
At The Motley Fool, Casey Kelly-Barton wrote a piece headlined, “There’s a Powerful Case for Better Corporate Political Disclosure.” Of companies that received high Index scores for disclosure, “These companies consider political transparency good business,” Kelly-Barton wrote. The Motley Fool also carried a commentary by Kelly-Barton that examined a polar opposite view of disclosure.
Further coverage and commentary came from diverse sources including Caplin & Drysdale; Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP; JD Supra Business Advisor; Corporate Counsel; the Harvard Law School blog (which posted an essay by CPA President Bruce Freed); SocialFunds.com; PAC Outsourcing LLC; and the Columbia Law School's Blog onCorporations and the Capital Markets.
The 2014 Index showed that a majority of almost 200 publicly held companies that were examined in both 2013 and 2014 received higher overall scores for political disclosure and accountability this year.
There they go again.
The critics have summoned up all the usual tired arguments in trying to discredit the 2014 CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Political Disclosure and Accountability.
This month, the Wall Street Journal joined the chorus of secret-spending defenders, as it has done in past years. They say mostly the same negative things about our annual benchmarking study. Other critics include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Center for Competitive Politics.
So many attacks. So little substance. So little new.
We are accused of trying to muzzle companies’ free speech, of bullying companies, and of using flawed methodology. The Wall Street Journal editorial board even refused to use reprint the name of the CPA-Zicklin Index, instead rebranding it the “Wharton-Zicklin” index.
We’re supposed to believe that more leading American companies are embracing political disclosure and making it a mainstream practice because CPA threatens them? The Center for Political Accountability has four full-time employees, several consultants and a modest budget. Really, where’s the threat?
In fact, companies are increasingly adopting more transparency in political spending practices because it’s a good idea whose time has come, especially in a post-Citizens United world. As CPA’s letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal (see main article) indicates, more companies are coming forward to talk publicly about their CPA-Zicklin Index scores. They’re not running or hiding.
As for the Journal’s editorial, at CPA, we’re willing to engage in a robust debate over the transparency and accountability practices we advocate. Indeed, we have appeared before a range of audiences and with proponents and opponents, in the interest of educating the public and companies about transparency.
Dubbing the CPA-Zicklin Index the “Wharton-Zicklin” index? Does the editorial board of one of the country’s leading newspapers think that to fit an ideological slant it has to set aside the facts and make up a fictional name for the leading company political disclosure benchmark?There they go again.