How Do Corporations Spend Politically?
Corporations fund election-related activity in a variety of ways. The Center for Political Accountability asks companies to disclose all spending from corporate funds that may be used for election-related purposes, directly or indirectly. This includes contributions to state or local political (and judicial) candidates, parties, and committees; 527 groups; trade associations; 501(c)(4) organizations; ballot measures; and direct independent expenditures.
which recipients do companies disclose?
Candidates, parties, and committees
Corporations are prohibited from tapping corporate treasuries for direct contributions to federal candidates and national political parties.
However, in many states they may donate directly to state and local candidates, parties, and committees within certain limits (see here).
State-level candidate, party, and committee contributions must be disclosed to varying degrees and can be found on state campaign finance databases.
Corporations may also give to tax-exempt political committees organized under § 527 of the Internal Revenue Code, or 527 groups. These groups are devoted to election-related activity and may engage in independent spending, but must disclose their donors to the IRS.
The Center for Responsive Politics maintains a list of the top fifty 527 groups by election cycle (see here).
Companies may give unlimited sums to trade associations organized under § 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code. These tax-exempt groups must have a “primary purpose” other than influencing elections, but they are permitted to engage in election-related activity.
Unlike many political committees regulated by federal election law, trade associations are not required to disclose their donors. However, corporate funds that are used by trade associations for election-related activity are non-deductible for tax purposes.