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Calpers Approves Policy on Corporate Political Contributions

Calpers Approves Policy on Corporate Political Contributions
Signage stands outside the offices of the California Public Employees' Retirement System (Calpers) in Sacramento. Photographer: Ken James/Bloomberg

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System approved new guidelines calling on companies in which the largest U.S. public pension invests to disclose their political contributions annually.

The $227.5 billion fund’s governing board today approved an update to its corporate governance principles that asks companies to detail each year all their political and charitable donations, including those made through a third party. The guidelines were sought by California Treasurer Bill Lockyer, a Democrat and member of the Calpers governing board.

The $139 billion California State Teachers’ Retirement System, the second-largest public pension in the U.S., adopted a similar rule Nov. 4. A coalition of business groups led by the state Chamber of Commerce last month urged the Calpers board to reject the proposal as an “unfair and discriminatory mandate” that would chill corporate free-speech rights.

“The point is to pursue accountability and transparency,” the fund’s chief counsel, Peter Mixon, told the board today.

The U.S. Supreme Court, citing free-speech protections, ruled last year that corporations and unions could spend their own money on elections, not just contributions from employees and political-action committees.

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