Is Political Accountability an Oxymoron?

This blog was posted on behalf of Michael Jacobson, Intel’s Director of Corporate Responsibility.

About the only thing lower than the public approval of corporations right now is the public approval of Congress. With the poor view of both institutions, it would lead one to believe that there is no way that a corporation can engage in the political process with any level of accountability. While I understand that viewpoint and the validity of the concern, I do want to take a stab at outlining how Intel tries to reach that goal.

A couple of core principles are critical to the steps we have taken over the years. First, you must have a clear approach that sets guidelines for political engagement, followed by a process for ensuring those guidelines are upheld. Second, when you engage in the political process, your actions should be transparent to all interested parties.

Intel does have Political Accountability Guidelines based on the Center for Political Accountability’s Model Code of Conduct for Political Spending. That document is a living document that was just recently updated this year to bring more clarity to our position regarding independent expenditures. Intel’s senior leadership — including the Board of Directors — approved the guidelines, engage in policy direction and review political contributions on a regular basis.

Intel’s primary reason for engaging in the public policy and advocacy space is to promote innovation and create a fair and level playing field for innovation to thrive in the marketplace. To make sure our priorities and positions are clear, we have a public policy web site and blog. In our annual Corporate Responsibility Report we also list a brief description of our priority issues and positions. Intel achieves these objectives through a mix of contributions, direct lobbying ($3.7M in 2010), and trade and other business association memberships, which are publicly disclosed. For any membership over $100K, we report the percentage that is spent for political activities. For the latest information see our 2010 U.S Contributions Document.

In States that allow direct corporate contributions, in 2010 we contributed $151,900 to state and local candidates and ballot propositions. These are listed in our 2010 contributions document. On the federal level, the Intel Political Action Committee enables employees to support candidates whose legislative goals align with Intel’s public policy priorities. In the 2010 election cycle, the sum of the political contributions from IPAC to federal candidates was $434,560. We make those contributions public as well – they are available for download on our Report Builder Site – check the Intel PAC Contributions box.

The goal of providing all of this information and detail is not for every person to agree with each of our policy positions, or to be fans of all of the associations we choose to join, but instead to help people understand why we prioritize certain policy objectives and how we engage in the political process.

For that reason, we are pleased that the CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Political Disclosure and Accountability was released today. Intel finished at the top of the second tier with a score of 72. While, of course, we always want to achieve the highest score possible, we welcome constructive engagement that allows us to continue to improve. In that regard, please let me know if you have any suggestions for us to consider.

Linda Qian

About Linda Qian

Linda focuses on CSR communications both internally and externally with Intel's global Corporate Responsibility Office. She graduated in December 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in Conservation and Resource Studies from the UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources. Follow Linda on Twitter at @lindalqian and @Intelinvolved. She is also active on LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook and Instagram.

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