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Survey: Illegal Corporate Campaign Contributions Up 400%

Friday, 13 January 2012 05:38 By Alex SeitzWald, ThinkProgress | Report
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In 2009, just 1 percent of respondents to National Business Ethics Survey — a large industry study funded by major corporations like Walmart — said they had witnessed illegal corporate political donations. This year, that number quadrupled to 4 percent. Management-level employees at large, publicly traded companies were most likely to see the illegal activity, with seven percent of senior managers saying they had witnessed it.

While it’s unclear exactly what caused the spike, Roll Call reports it may have to do with increasingly lax campaign finance laws in the wake of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision:

“If these numbers are quadrupling, it is eye-popping,” said Kenneth Gross, a lawyer with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom’s political law practice who advises corporate clients on government affairs compliance. “Possibly the relaxed laws on giving have pervaded … the workplace, giving people the impression that things aren’t as strict as they were.”

Although it is not clear what led to the spike, there is no question that the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which opened the door to unlimited political spending by unions and corporations, has dramatically changed the landscape of political giving in the business world, heightening pressure on fundraisers to rake in big sums from new sources.

Meanwhile, employees reported a similar increase in observing bribes and improper payments to public officials that violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Alex SeitzWald

Alex Seitz-Wald is a Reporter/Blogger for and The Progress Report at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Alex grew up in California and holds a B.A. in international relations from Brown University. Prior to joining ThinkProgress, Alex interned at the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS and at the National Journal’s Hotline, where he covered key senate and gubernatorial races. Alex also co-founded and edited the Olive & Arrow, a blog on foreign affairs for and by young progressives.

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