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NY pension fund sues Qualcomm over political spending

The New York State Common Retirement Fund has filed more than two dozen resolutions asking companies to disclose political spending and lobbying efforts

Corporate political donations have been a hot-button issue since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, which extended First Amendment rights to independent political spending on the part of corporations and unions. Now New York’s public pension fund has added another wrinkle to the debate with a lawsuit that attempts to force telecommunications company Qualcomm Inc. to disclose its political expenditures.

The New York State Common Retirement Fund, which reportedly owns $378 million of Qualcomm stock, says that the company rebuffed the fund’s request to review company records related to political spending. This is a problem because shareholders cannot see how much—and to what causes—companies are donating, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who oversees the pension fund, told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

The lawsuit claims that Qualcomm, which is incorporated in Delaware, must comply with a Delaware law requiring certain corporate disclosures. In the past two years, the New York State Common Retirement Fund, which is the country’s third-largest public pension fund, has filed more than two dozen resolutions asking companies to disclose political spending and lobbying.

A Qualcomm spokeswoman told WSJ that the company has not given any money to super PACs.

Qualcomm isn’t the only company to come under fire for its political spending, and in some cases, companies have bent to shareholder pressure on the issue. A 2011 study from the Center for Political Accountability found that three-fifths of Standard & Poor’s 100 companies were reporting direct corporate spending, and that 43 companies reported political spending information through third parties.

Read more InsideCounsel coverage of corporate political spending:

8th Circuit blocks Minnesota law requiring disclosure of corporate political spending

Under shareholder pressure, companies disclose political spending

The last political loophole is found in non-profits

Regulatory: Limiting corporate political activity

Regulatory: How to play by the pay-to-play rules


Alanna Byrne

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