In a letter to Congress, investors make clear that they view an election system free of discriminatory practices and the political influence of “dark money” as central to a strong democracy where businesses can thrive.
NEW YORK, NY, TUESDAY, AUGUST 10TH, 2021 – A group of 71 institutional investors announced they had sent a letter to Senators urging passage of the For the People Act, legislation introduced by Maryland Representative John Sarbanes intended to safeguard democratic structures by expanding voting opportunities, banning discriminatory gerrymandering and promoting transparency regarding campaign finance.
Investors say the For the People Act will create a level playing field for all Americans to exercise their Constitutional right to vote and help fortify our democracy, leading to a stable economic environment that favors both the public interest and business.
The false narrative of a stolen election has been used to justify the introduction of an alarming and ongoing wave of state-level voting laws – nearly 400 bills across 49 states– designed to restrict American’s ability to register to vote and cast ballots early or by mail. These bills would restrict citizen’s say on critical governmental systems such as healthcare, education, and the economy. Moreover, these bills are largely seen as discriminatory as they would disproportionately disenfranchise communities of color.
“The right to vote is absolutely critical to a functioning democracy, a stable business environment and long-term economic growth in the United States,” said Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs. “Our nation works best when everyone has a voice and everyone is represented. When voting rights are taken away or restricted, we risk creating political and economic instability. That’s why our group, composed of institutional investors, is urging Congress to end discriminatory practices and protect the right to vote.”
While support is building among legislators and the public for the Act, opponents like industry trade group the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (U.S. Chamber) are aggressively attempting to thwart its passage.
“The U.S. Chamber’s opposition to the For the People Act conflicts with its October 2020 statement that ‘[t]he strength of our nation’s democracy depends on the integrity and fairness of our elections’ and it runs counter to the statements of business leaders across the country who support the protection of voting rights,” said Sister Nora Nash, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. “These business leaders understand that the critical challenges we face including climate change, health care, and workers’ rights are systemic in nature and require the full and equitable participation of our citizenry to resolve them.”
One of the key goals of the For the People Act is to reform campaign finance laws and expose the flow of “dark money”, or anonymous political donations, in our nation’s politics in an attempt to limit its corrupting influence on our democracy. As one of the nation’s largest lobbying groups and funders of “dark money” on elections, the Chamber’s ability to funnel money into the political system without accountability would be significantly curtailed should the For the People Act become law.
Said Marcela Pinilla, Director of Sustainable Investing at Zevin Asset Management, “To the degree that special interest groups like the Chamber can purchase unlimited power and influence without accountability it will always come at the expense of citizen voters. Investors want a climate in which corporate political engagement is transparent and accountable as evidenced by the record numberof shareholder proposals calling for disclosure around political activities that passed at annual meetings this spring. The For the People Act calls for sensible guardrails around campaign finance and it is one of the reasons the investor community strongly supports the bill.”
About the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)
Celebrating its 50th year, ICCR is the pioneer coalition of shareholder advocates who view the management of their investments as a catalyst for social change. Its 300-member organizations comprise faith communities, socially responsible asset managers, unions, pensions, NGOs, and other socially responsible investors with combined assets of over $4 trillion. ICCR members engage hundreds of corporations annually in an effort to foster greater corporate accountability. Visit our website www.iccr.org and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.