Corporate Influence in Politics

American corporations spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year to support candidates and shape policy at both the state and national levels. While U.S. laws prevent companies from making direct contributions to federal candidates or national political parties, companies are permitted to make partisan donations — for example to support or oppose a specific candidate — as long as the funding is independent from that candidate’s committee. Companies may also give to political committees such as the Republican and Democratic Governors Associations, trade associations, or other nonprofits, none of which are required to disclose their funding sources. Corporations may also fund Super PACs, which have no limitations on how much money they can accept or disburse.

A lack of transparency obfuscates the true sources of influence in political elections. This ‘dark money’ undermines accountability on how companies spend shareholder money. It also calls into question elected officials’ policymaking on issues such as climate change, taxation, redistricting, criminal justice reform and LGBTQIA+ rights. Some companies have even found themselves donating to campaigns or candidates whose platforms clash with their corporate values.