Student-loan servicer Navient, along with drug manufacturers
Navient, with a score of 91.4, and
Several local companies bested the index average of 44.1 with scores that remained the same, or roughly similar, over the last year: pharmaceutical distributor
"Companies are finding that disclosure and accountability policies protect them," said
This year's index is the first to cover a full year of corporate political transparency under a Trump presidency -- an environment the report's authors deem "hostile" to disclosure in general.
"The whole tone that comes out of the
Even so, companies that have been in the S&P 500 since 2015 -- a collection of 414 "core" firms -- continue to take up more transparent practices, according to the report. Their average index score is 49.7, up from 41.6 in 2015. The number of core companies that disclose or prohibit political donations has "consistently increased," in several contribution categories. For example, 226 of them now either fully disclose or ban contributions to candidates, parties, or campaign committees, compared with 196 in 2015.
Across this year's entire index of 493 companies, 231 disclosed some or all election-related spending, down from 236 that did so last year. Freed said the variation largely owes to new companies entering the S&P 500, and that the longer a company remains on the index, the more likely it is to adopt and strengthen disclosure policies.
That's a big shift from the early 2000s, when political disclosure among major companies was practically nonexistent. "We started from zero in 2003," Freed recalled.
Disclosing spending policies and payments is now seen as a common risk-management practice. It can give companies more clearly defined parameters for what they choose to spend money on -- or an excuse to say no to a request for a contribution.
This year's report found that 176 companies, or 36 percent of the index, prohibited at least one type of election-related spending -- up from 143 companies, or 29 percent of the index, in 2016.
Navient scored higher, in part, by clarifying that it does not spend on ballot measures. The company also added a new level of board oversight, so that a committee of directors oversees political spending practices.
For 2017, the company published a list of 16 such organizations, including five groups that received more than
Chemical maker FMC landed on a list of "backslider" companies whose scores decreased by 10 points or more. According to the center, FMC didn't post its most recent political spending report, despite an agreement by the company to do so.
A spokesperson for FMC said the company complies with federal law by reporting political contributions to the
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