Maybe now the phone will stop ringing incessantly with recorded voices urging me to vote for the candidate with the most corporate money in their treasure chest. And maybe now my mailbox won't be stuffed with repetitive political cards urging me to vote for the candidate with the most corporate money in their treasure chest. Because, you know, corporate money rules the political world.
But there will be other things for certain people to vote on, even after election day. Corporate shareholders still get to vote on proposals at upcoming company annual meetings. In addition to company-sponsored proposals such as executive compensation or lowering the threshold for approval of "certain" proposals, shareholders can vote on their own proposals about how the company they own is run.
FirstEnergy shareholders will be voting on May 17. Of course, the company recommends that its shareholders vote for all the company's proposals, and AGAINST all the proposals of its shareholders. This pretty much never changes from year to year. The only thing that changes is the proposals that shareholders make which are consistently voted down at annual meetings.
This year, shareholders have proposed that FirstEnergy prepare and issue a report disclosing the company's lobbying expenditures, particularly direct and indirect lobbying and grassroots lobbying communications. Direct and indirect lobbying includes payments to tax-exempt organizations that write and endorse model legislation. "Grassroots" lobbying communications include company advertising advising the general public how they should think about certain legislation, and how they should participate in their own governance.
The Nathan Cummings Foundation believes FirstEnergy's lobbying efforts constitute a risky and ineffective strategy. It's not how much of the shareholders' money FirstEnergy pumps into its lobbying efforts (well, assuming FirstEnergy doesn't have any accounting "accidents" and charge the lobbying costs to ratepayers instead of shareholders) it's that they suspect FirstEnergy's lobbying efforts are hurting shareholders interest in the health of the company. Now, why would FirstEnergy engage in lobbying that hurts its financial position?
FirstEnergy's management believes "that it has a responsibility to participate in the legislative, regulatory and political process. Sharing its views and educating officeholders, regulators, community and business leaders, and the public on key issues helps your Company promote effective government and the interests of key stakeholder groups including our shareholders, employees and the communities we serve. By engaging with elected officials, regulators, community and business leaders, and other decision makers, your Company strives to conduct its business as transparently as possible to serve customers effectively and help build public trust."
Participate? It's not just about "sharing its views," it's about using money and political power to prevent voters from "sharing their views." It's about hiding behind trade associations and totally made up groups, such as Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG), in order to influence government processes. It's about using its public voice to disseminate political propaganda to its customers.
But, never fear, these shareholder proposals are always voted down. Shareholders never truly revolt and vote with their money by dumping the corporate stock of a company who continues to ignore their wishes. Nobody is brave enough to have real convictions when it comes to their wallet.
Greed rules all in a voting process, whether at the voting booth or an annual shareholder meeting.