For Release: March 7, 2017
Contact: Judy Kent at (703) 759-7476 or cell (703) 477-7476 or [email protected]
Liberals Attack Disney's Free Speech and Freedom of Association
National Center for Public Policy Research Urges Shareholders to Reject Proposal to Restrict Disney's Ability to Associate With U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Other Pro-Business Groups
National Center's Free Enterprise Project Says Left-Wing Shareholder Proposal Would Censor Disney's Speech and Harmfully Dictate Business Relationships
Denver, CO / Washington, D.C. - The nation's leading proponent of free-market investor activism is urging Walt Disney Company shareholders to reject a proposal under consideration this week that would harm the company's ability to speak and associate freely.
At the annual meeting of Disney shareholders being held in Denver, Colorado on March 8, National Center for Public Policy Research General Counsel and Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq. plans to speak out against a shareholder proposal about lobbying disclosure being offered by Zevin Asset Management. The National Center is warning shareholders that the Zevin proposal, designated as proposal #1, could restrict Disney's ability to engage in relationships beneficial to its business.
The National Center also notes left-wing political activists are hypocritical, because they oppose businesses having relationships with free-market advocates and groups but say nothing about corporate spending favoring liberal political issues.
Zevin's proposal demands Disney reveal details about and the motivation for its spending on lobbying as well as Disney's memberships and support for non-profits involved in creating model legislation.
Zevin's proposal, and Disney's response to it, are available on pages 61-63 of the company's proxy statement, which is available for download here.
In the National Center's prepared statement to be read at the Disney shareholder meeting in opposition to proposal #1, Danhof says:
Zevin is attempting to conscript Disney's shareholders into its efforts to defund and silence the National Restaurant Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, groups that seek to improve America's business environment.
[G]roups such as Zevin never - and I mean never - express concern about the billions of corporate dollars that go to fund liberal causes and politicians. Herein lies the hypocrisy of its proposal. Zevin abhors corporate speech when it is perceived to skew to the political right. It remains silent when speech supports leftist causes they favor.
This will be the second time the National Center has challenged Zevin Asset Management on the issue of lobbying disclosure and business relationships at a Walt Disney Company shareholder meeting. After the National Center spoke out against a similar proposal in 2016, Zevin's proposal was defeated by Disney shareholders by a more than 2-1 margin.
The National Center has also been critical of Disney, questioning Disney CEO Bob Iger on issues such as the need for political protections for its employees and bias in the reporting of company-owned news organizations at shareholder meetings as far back as 2009. After being questioned about media bias in 2013, Iger conceded to the National Center's Justin Danhof, "we have, at times, either presented the news in... a slightly inaccurate way through mistakes or in ways we weren't necessarily proud of." Disney owns ABC and ESPN.
Danhof may question Disney executives on a topic not related to proposal #1 at the March 8 meeting.
Launched in 2007, the National Center for Public Policy Research's Free Enterprise Project is the nation's preeminent free-market activist group, focusing on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business. Since 2014, National Center representatives have participated in nearly 100 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers' rights and many other important public policy issues. Disney's meeting will mark its third shareholder meeting so far in 2017.
In 2016, the Free Enterprise Project was featured in the Washington Post, the Washington Times, the Fox News Channel's "Cavuto," the Drudge Report, the Financial Times, Crain's Chicago Business, the Hollywood Reporter, the Los Angeles Times, Fortune, Newsmax, the Daily Caller, Lifezette, the Seattle Times, the Quad City Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Tribune among many others. The Free Enterprise Project was also featured in Wall Street Journal writer Kim Strassel's 2016 book The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech (Hachette Book Group).
The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter for general announcements. To be alerted to upcoming media appearances by National Center staff, follow our media appearances Twitter account at @NCPPRMedia.