As this election year comes to it’s conclusion, experts are forecasting that this run for the White House, and for control of Capitol Hill, will be the most extensively corporate-influenced race in living memory, and foreign corporations are playing a major role.
More than one in five of Britain’s largest corporations are funneling political donations to their preferred candidate ahead of next month’s U.S. elections. British multinationals such as HSBC, Barclays, Experian, Prudential, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, BP, Shell and BAE all have political action committees (PACs) that channel donations from employees to US politicians. The UK is now the biggest hub for non-US multinationals seeking to exert influence over American politics.
14 of the top 50 most active foreign-controlled PACs have parent groups listed in London, according to Washington group the Center for Responsive Politics. Despite this, some FTSE 100 groups continue to claim in annual reports that they do not make political donations. They are able to get away with it because PACs receive their funds from US employees and only use company funds to cover administrative costs. PACs are usually staffed by company lobbyists, who distribute contributions in line with the company’s agenda.
“The door has been pushed wide open to the abuses we had during Watergate,” says Bruce Freed, president of the Washington-based Center for Political Accountability. “Company shakedowns, massive amounts of money being given privately and much more.”
High-profile donors include Experian chief executive Don Robert, who contributed to the credit check group’s 78% Republican-leaning PAC; BP chief executive Bob Dudley, who gives to the oil major’s 71% Republican-leaning PAC; and former AstraZeneca chief executive David Brennan, who, until he resigned in April, gave to the group’s 54% Republican-leaning PAC.