General Electric Chooses Secrecy over Transparency
GE Opposes Proposal Seeking Clarity on Its Controversial Charitable Contributions
Free Enterprise Project Resolution Criticizes GE Donations to Clinton Foundation, Planned Parenthood and Center for American Progress
Asheville, NC / Washington, D.C. - At today's annual meeting of General Electric (GE) investors held in Asheville, North Carolina, the National Center for Public Policy Research presented a shareholder resolution calling on the industrial giant to explain its rationale for donating shareholder money to controversial groups such as Planned Parenthood and the Clinton Foundation.
"Apparently General Electric executives have no explanation for why the company donates its shareholders' money to controversial charitable organizations. If the company had strong reasons for such donations, and those reasons outweighed the risks of being associated with such shady groups, then the company would have welcomed our resolution and provided a cogent response," said National Center General Counsel and Free Enterprise Project (FEP) Director Justin Danhof, Esq., who attended today's meeting and presented FEP's proposal. "Why would pro-life investors entrust their funds to a company that then turns around and donates to Planned Parenthood? The obvious answer is that they wouldn't, and that's likely why GE refused to properly answer our proposal."
At the meeting, Danhof stated:
[T]he company provided funds to Planned Parenthood. Already the recipient of $500 million taxpayers' dollars annually, the nation's largest abortion provider has come under investigation for the sale of fetal tissue. In response, many states and corporations distanced themselves from Planned Parenthood.
The company also donated to the Center for American Progress (CAP). CAP is an extreme political group accused of anti-Semitism. Additionally, in 2010, under the direction of John Podesta — who later became chairman of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign — CAP wrote the blueprint for the Obama Administration's expansion of executive power. Now, with President Donald Trump in office, GE lodged complaints about the very same use of executive power effectively designed and, by implication, endorsed through the company's funding of CAP.
The company also donated to the Clinton Foundation, which is reportedly under FBI investigation. Media reports strongly imply parts of the Clinton Foundation operated as a pay-for-play scheme whereby individuals and corporations may have sought preferential treatment from government actors in exchange for donations to the Foundation. Such speculation is further fueled by the closing of some of the Clinton Foundation's operations following Mrs. Clinton's unsuccessful White House bid. GE support of the Clinton Foundation has been the subject of such scrutiny and speculation.
Danhof's full statement, as prepared for delivery, is available here. The audio of Danhof's statement during the meeting can be heard here. The full text of FEP's proposal and GE's response to it are available here. At press time, the final official vote on the proposal was not available.
"Investors have a right to expect that GE is using their money to advance initiatives that raise shareholder value. It is hard to see how donating to extremist groups such as the Center for American Progress (CAP) fulfills GE's legal fiduciary duty to its stockholders," added Danhof. "We gave GE an opportunity to explain how how donating shareholder money to Planned Parenthood, CAP and the Clinton Foundation somehow fulfills the company's obligation to its investors, and it balked. Conservative and pro-life investors have a right to know why the company is in league with such detestable groups. And until such a time as GE answers those questions, investors may want to look elsewhere."
This isn't the first time FEP has asked GE for transparency regarding its relationship with the Clinton Foundation.
In 2015, out of concern that the company's donations to the Clinton Foundation - which coincided closely with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's efforts to help secure a foreign contract for GE - may have subjected the company to liability for honest services fraud, the National Center sought an explanation from GE CEO Jeff Immelt regarding those contributions. Immelt refused FEP's request for transparency. That story was widely covered in the national press, including numerous segments on the Fox News Channel.
The National Center's FEP brought similar shareholder proposals before shareholders at Apple earlier this year as well as Coca-Cola, John Deere and McDonalds in 2016. It also raised corporate funding and affiliation issues with executives of Aetna, Honeywell, Pfizer and UPS in 2015 and 2016. This is also not the first time the FEP has submitted a shareholder proposal to GE. In 2014, in response to a FEP proposal, GE proactively changed its corporate policy to protect employees from workplace retribution for private political activities. FEP representatives have been attending GE shareholder meetings since 2009.
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 to advance 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. Earlier today, while Danhof was at the General Electric meeting, National Center Vice President David W. Almasi participated in Coca-Cola's shareholder meeting.
The National Center's Free Enterprise Project activism has yielded a tremendous return on investment:
- FEP's highly-publicized questioning of support for the Clinton Foundation by Boeing and General Electric helped trigger an FBI investigation of the Clinton Foundation's activities that dominated the 2016 presidential campaign.
- FEP inquiries prompted Facebook to address political bias against conservatives in social media.
- Company executives acknowledged media bias at ABC News (Disney), the Washington Post and CNN (Time Warner) in response to FEP's challenges, which helped to bring about more objective reporting and more balanced political representation.
- FEP's "Employee Conscience Protection Project" strengthened protections for the political beliefs and activities of over five million workers at 13 major U.S. corporations.
So far in 2017, the FEP has been featured in media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Variety, Associated Press, Bloomberg, Breitbart, WorldNetDaily, Drudge Report, Business Insider, CNET, National Public Radio, American Family Radio and SiriusXM. In 2016, the FEP was also featured in the Washington Times, the Fox News Channel's "Cavuto," the Financial Times, Crain's Chicago Business, the Hollywood Reporter, the Los Angeles Times, Fortune, Newsmax, the Daily Caller, Lifezette, the Seattle Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Tribune among many others. The Free Enterprise Project was also featured in Wall Street Journal writer Kimberley 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. Sign up for email updates here. 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.