Voter suppression and other election threats are capturing the attention of shareholder advocates, including a coalition of institutional investors that called on companies Wednesday to stop contributing to elected officials supporting it.
The open letter to corporate directors of 82 companies from more than 125 state treasurers, public pension fund trustees, foundations and socially responsible investors with a collective $1.5 trillion in assets said that as fiduciaries and trustees of public funds and retirement savings, "we are concerned with the erosion of political stability in the United States."
The letter also asked companies to stop contributing to any elected official who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election and to disclose all political contributions. "We are facing an existential threat to the election system in the U.S. which poses substantial systemic risk to long-term investors' portfolios. This is not a question of partisan politics — many Democrats and Republicans have opposed contemporary attacks on the functioning of American democracy — but of ensuring voter participation and enfranchisement. The question for corporations is whether to continue operating under business-as-usual assumptions or recognize this threat and take action," the letter said.
Signatories include public pension fiduciaries in California, Oregon, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Vermont, Chicago and New York City, including the $463.9 billion California Public Employees' Retirement System, Sacramento, the $90 billion Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management Board, Boston, the Minnesota State Board of Investment, St. Paul, managing $116.9 billion in defined benefit and participant-directed plans, the Oregon Investment Council, overseeing the $83.4 billion Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund, Tigard, and the $69.6 billion Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Pasadena, Calif.
The effort is being coordinated by shareholder advocacy group Majority Action and SEIU. "Leading investors have noted that undermining voting rights and voting access compromises the foundation of sustainable long-term value creation economy-wide," said Majority Action executive director Eli Kasargod-Staub in the release.
Maine Treasurer Henry Beck, a trustee of the $17.6 billion Maine Public Employees' Retirement System, Augusta, said in the same release that he supports the letters "because an attack on our democracy is a substantial and systemic risk to investors' portfolios."
According to the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice, 361 bills in 47 states contain provisions restricting voting rights.