Corporate Giving Bill Moves on
Nov. 03, 1999
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Business executives are warning Congress there might be fewer gifts to charity if companies are forced to tell their shareholders where they donated corporate money.
The arguments raised some red flags Tuesday as the House Commerce's subcommittee on finance and hazardous materials considered a bill requiring such disclosure. Several panel members suggested delaying the measure, but it passed by voice vote.
The bill would require corporations to disclose their charitable giving in annual statements to shareholders. It also would require that shareholders be told of connections top corporate officials or their spouses have with the charities to which they give the corporation's money.
Among those expressing reservations were two New York Democrats, Reps. Edolphus Towns and Eliot Engel.
Both said they were worried about the business groups' warnings about a decline in corporate philanthropy.
``I'm concerned about the legislation having the unintended effect of stifling corporate giving programs,'' said Engel.
``They have not been supporters of mine down through the years, but I think they have points that need to be looked at,'' said Towns.
Rep. Paul Gillmor, R-Ohio, the bill's author, said many companies already tell their shareholders how they donate corporate money. As long as the Security and Exchange Commission sets a reasonable threshold for which donations are large enough to merit disclosure, such a requirement shouldn't be onerous, he said.
``This is an issue of shareholder rights. Whose money is it?'' said Gillmor.
He said most of the 80 million Americans who own stock probably don't want to know about every small donation, but may be interested in sums of $100,000 or more _ money that might otherwise would be returned to them in the form of dividends.
Under the legislation, the SEC would decide what size donation would be too small to be disclosed.
Before the bill was approved in the subcommittee, Republicans used a party-line vote to defeat an attempt to make companies also reveal when corporate money is given to political causes or politicians.