B of A political disclosure
1:00 pm
Mon March 15, 2010

B of A political disclosure

Bank of America has agreed to publish an annual summary of its political donations on its website in a deal worked out by New York City officials.
Bank of America and its employees contributed more than $4.5 million to politics in the 2008 election. But to get that information, you have to know where to look. Now, New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio says the money BofA spends influencing politics will be easy to find:

"Rather than something that a small minority of people take the time and energy to go look for. We want the shareholders to fully understand what's going on. Therefore it needs to be upfront and proactively reported to them."

De Blasio and New York City Comptroller John Liu began pushing for political disclosure agreements from major corporations after the Supreme Court relaxed political spending laws for companies in January. The BofA deal is their most significant to date. De Blasio says it matters to New York because the city's Pension Funds hold more than 36 million BofA shares.

"And there's a real concern that some of this spending may be ill-considered, may take corporations in the wrong direction. There's a lot of history of that: overspending on politics, overspending on lobbying, taking corporations away from their bottom line considerations and we want it all out in the open."

Bank of America spokesman Jerry Dubrowski says the Charlotte-based company was already committed to transparency. He says the agreement with New York City,

"Allows us to extend that disclosure policy to include donations that the bank makes to ballot questions, state and local political activities and then what our associates will contribute to political action committees."

And all of that will be updated once a year on the BofA website, says Dubrowski. However, the bank is not required by the agreement - or by law - to disclose anonymous donations to chambers of commerce and trade associations that may pass the money on to political campaigns. As a result, New York's De Blasio says the Bank of America deal is a good first step, but he's working with other state pension funds around the country to get Congress to pass stricter disclosure laws.

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