cross-posted at

Occasionally the readers of our site email us the responses they get from the various companies when they contact them.  Some companies really try to address the concerns. And then there are companies that try to obfuscate and deny the facts.  The following letter is an example of the latter.

This is from a customer service agent at Procter & Gamble that I’ll dissect for you.

Thanks for contacting us about our political contributions, XXXXX.  As you may know, federal and many states’ laws prohibit corporations from making contributions to candidates and P&G abides by these laws.  As a corporation, we do not contribute to political candidates.

Yes that is true, but only with recent changes in campaign finance laws.  As recently as 2002, corporations could contribute to candidates, and Procter and Gamble did.

You’re likely referring to contributions made by The Procter & Gamble Good Government Committee, P&G’s nonpartisan political action committee (PAC). P&G employees contribute voluntarily to this committee and comprise the PAC Board that governs any contributions to candidates for federal, state, and local offices.  The PAC supports candidates who share the committee’s concerns and interest in developing and supporting policies that create an environment in which the Company, the private sector and the communities where our employees live and work, will prosper.

Why yes, the contributions this reader was referring to did come from the PAC.  It is disingenuous of Procter and Gamble’s representative to try to distinguish between the company and the PAC.  But that is all right, we can look at the contributions of the corporate officers and of the PAC.  In the 2003-2004 election cycle, for example, Clayton C. Daley Jr , the CFO, contributed a total of $1,250 to the Republican party.  Chairman, President, and CEO Alan G. (A.G.) Lafley donated  $15,000 to the Republican party and made numerous contributions to the PAC (but that’s minor compared to the PAC).

Now where this letter starts to go astray is in suggesting this entity shouldn’t be associated with the company itself and the reader was wrong to attribute their actions to the company.  The sole purpose of a PAC is to raise and spend money to elect or defeat candidates during an election.

The customer service representative is suggesting that the PAC is somehow the voice of P & G employees speaking, but in the very next sentence the rep states that the board decides where the money is spent.  By the very nature of the job, these people have to be connected and well informed on the issues. They are acting on behalf of the company, not the employees.

Furthermore, while the contributions may be made to achieve a favorable vote on one issue or another, when you contribute to a candidate, you aren’t just buying one issue.  You are buying a candidate and everything that goes along with that candidate.  You may be interested in an obscure taxation issue, but if you are helping to elect a candidate with a host of other investors, you are giving tacit approval of those views as well.

The PAC is nonpartisan, but party affiliation is tracked.  I assure you historic giving by the PAC has consistently been bipartisan and varies each election cycle.  While levels of giving by party can vary at the local, state and federal level, the contributions principles remain constant — contributions are guided by alignment with the PAC’s stated interests, never by partisanship.

Now this is the good part, my emphasis added above.  The customer service rep assures our reader that the PAC has been consistently bipartisan.  Let’s pause for a moment and ponder that word.  Technically it could mean that if you donate a single dollar to a Democratic politician and you donate the rest to Republican politicians you are bipartisan.  That is pretty meaningless.  The way most people use the term means compromise between the two parties, in this case translating to roughly 50/50 donations over the course of years.

So let’s see if that is accurate, shall we?  We have the data for the 2003-2004 cycle posted on our site but who knows, maybe the previous cycle they donated the opposite way which would make them bipartisan.

We’ll consult and check every cycle from 1998 through 2006 (so far).

1998:  $117,100 (22% to Democrats, 78% to Republicans)
2000:  $138,610 (32% to Democrats, 68% to Republicans)
2002:  $205,777 (26% to Democrats, 74% to Republicans)
2004:  $209,989 (23% to Democrats, 77% to Republicans)
2006 (so far): $104,500 (22% to Democrats, 78% to Republicans)

I’m no statistician, but it seems pretty clear to me that is anything but bipartisan.

It’s bipartisan in the sense that it involves contributions to two parties and it does, actually vary from cycle to cycle.  But it’s about as balanced as a one-eyed drunk.

Let’s also take a look at the soft money contributions before they were outlawed.  Before the 2003-2004 election cycle, corporations were allowed to directly make contributions to candidates.  This was called “soft money”. also tracks this information.

1998 election cycle:  $0 to Democrats, $28,000 to Republicans
2000 election cycle:  $0 to Democrats, $5,250 to Republicans
2002 election cycle:  $0 to Democrats, $1,500 to Republicans

So before our new campaign finance laws went into effect, P & G contributed 100% of what they donated, officially as a company, to the Republican party.  Sure it wasn’t much, but it certainly taints their response.

Finally, just for fun let’s check out the lobbying record for P & G from 1998 through 2004.  This data is from The Center for Public Integrity and they have a nice graphical presentation on their page.  These are the officially recorded lobbying dollars and they aren’t assigned to a party.  Undocumented dollars are thought to be large as a general rule.

  1.  $3.18 Million
  2.  $2.96 Million
  3.  $3.54 Million
  4.  $2.96 Million
  5.  $2.82 Million
  6.  $2.79 Million
  7.  $2.79 Million

Public Integrity has an “issue” page for each company which shows the number of lobbying filings for a given issue, but not the dollar amounts.  That is certainly interesting in light of the statement “supporting policies that create an environment in which the Company, the private sector and the communities where our employees live and work, will prosper.”

For example, they’ve filed 24 times during this 8 year period for the “environment & superfund” issue.  As I said earlier, it doesn’t say who the dollars were lobbying, but does anyone really believe that P & G would be lobbying for the side that believes companies should clean up their own environmental problems?  That certainly doesn’t promote the communities where their employees live and work unless toxic environmental waste is a good thing.

They’ve filed 14 times on the issue of Products, Safety & Consumer Issues.  I’m willing to bet a nice bottle of wine they weren’t lobbying to ensure they could be held accountable when their products were found to be defective.

I hope this information helps.  We appreciate your taking the time to get in touch with us and I’m sharing your comments with our Management Team.

Yep, it certainly does help.  Perhaps the management team will consider revising the public response to these inquiries to be I don’t know… accurate?

Daylight is the best disinfectant.  If you are feeling up to the challenge another letter to P&G highlighting these facts alongside their statements might be in order.

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