Should investors care about the political giving of CEOs?

A new working paper by Alma Cohen of Harvard, Roberto Tallarita of Harvard Law School, and Moshe Hazan and David Weiss of Tel-Aviv University finds CEOs of public companies tend to lean Republican and that public companies led by Republican CEOs tend to be less transparent in their political giving. The authors ponder future implications for public policy due to the pro-Republican tilt of CEOs. They measure CEO giving in part because companies do not always tell investors “whether, how, and how much they spend on politics.”

Although the authors acknowledge the CEOs’ leanings may balance the leanings of unions and may be in the interest of shareholders, “We argue that an understanding of CEOs’ disproportionate support for the Republican Party should inform an assessment of the effects of corporate political spending and Citizens United on policymaking and politics. In addition, an understanding of CEOs’ partisan leanings should inform the assessment of CEO policy activism.”

Similarly, they acknowledge that there may be good reasons for companies not to disclose their political spending, but Tallarita was also co-author on a paper that concluded, “The case for keeping political spending under the radar of investors…is untenable.”

In case their partisan concern wasn’t clear, the authors state, “If CEOs disproportionately favor one of the two major political parties, the vast number opposing that party will have to recognize that their investments in diversified portfolios of companies implies that funds of these companies are likely to be disproportionately spent for political causes they oppose. The evidence we present can identify the extent to which some part of the public, and which parts of the public, should be concerned about the political spending of the public companies in which they are invested.” [emphasis added]

Joseph Coletti / Senior Fellow

Joe Coletti is a senior fellow at the John Locke Foundation focused on fiscal policy issues. He previously headed the North Carolina Government Efficiency and Reform initiativ...

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