Walter Mencken 1:04 p.m., Sept. 4
Sempra Agrees to Disclose Political Activity to New York Pension Fund
More light on the secretive political goings-on at San Diego-based utility giant Sempra Energy is about to be shed, according to an announcement today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
Sempra, along with two other corporations based in the Golden State, Safeway and PG&E, have signed an agreement with DiNapoli and New York's state pension fund "mandating the disclosure of [their] political spending made with corporate funds."
"The agreement with PG&E also includes a ground-breaking provision to provide further disclosures of the company's policies and procedures regarding political lobbying activities," the release adds.
Under the arrangement, reached in the face of shareholder resolutions filed by the comptroller, Sempra and the other firms are supposed to open up their decision making process regarding which political causes are supported, and who in management and on the board signs off on the choices.
"The Fund is engaging in dialogue with these companies to promote full disclosure of direct and indirect political spending, contributions to independent committees as well as payments to trade associations which are used for political purposes.
"In addition, these agreements commit the companies to describe their decision-making process for political spending and what oversight was provided by the management and board in that process."
DiNapoli's statement linked the need for such disclosures to the 2010 "Citizens United" decision by the U.S. Supreme Court which held that political spending is protected speech under the First Amendment, free from governmental restrictions.
"I am proud that the New York State Common Retirement Fund is in the vanguard of the movement to ensure that companies are acting with the best interests of shareholders in mind when they engage in political action. It is my hope that other companies will follow these companies' leads by agreeing to fully disclose their political spending activities."
According to the DiNapoli release, as of February 10, New York's pension fund owned 1.06 million Sempra Energy shares worth $50.8 million.
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