CEO Larry Fink has become an increasingly prominent voice in business over the past decade, urging companies to think about more than just profits. His annual letters on "stakeholder capitalism" have drawn criticism from conservatives who say he's pandering to "woke" values.
Republicans in some energy-rich states are challenging the firm over its views on climate change, with Texas threatening to limit how much business it does with New York-based BlackRock. In Florida, the company has faced criticism for its dealings in China, and former Vice President Mike Pence said in recent speech that large investment firms are pushing a "radical ESG agenda," taking aim at BlackRock specifically.
The backlash has come in Washington, too. Republican Sens. Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania are among those sponsoring a bill seeking to curb voting powers of large asset managers at shareholder meetings.
The ads debuting Monday also emphasize low-cost investment products BlackRock manages as well as $20 billion in investments the firm makes in U.S. roads, bridges and transportation, according to the memo. Mr. Fink and senior executives, meanwhile, have made a point of meeting with corporations and civil society groups this year, especially on climate and energy issues.
The firm is already well-known in the corridors of power and has hired former senior government and regulatory officials over the years. The Biden administration tapped BlackRock executives for high-level roles in the White House and Treasury Department. When COVID-19 upended markets, the Federal Reserve sought out BlackRock to help manage the response.
Still, the media campaign shows that even with its Washington connections BlackRock sees the need to strengthen its advocacy efforts — especially as the firm is thrust into the middle of hot-button social issues, including abortion rights and gun control.
As a top-five shareholder of almost every company in the S&P 500, BlackRock regularly faces pressure over its votes during annual shareholder meetings. This year, for example, investors of big-box retailers were asked to vote on whether companies should report on the risks to employees if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
"BlackRock's business and impact are felt across the globe by an expanding universe of stakeholders: from clients, shareholders and employees to the communities where we operate and society at large," Ms. Blass and Mr. Craddock wrote. "We have made a concerted effort to tell the story of who we are and what we do."