WellPoint’s contributions to various political causes are riling up activist shareholders, unionized workers whose insurance is handled by WellPoint’s Connecticut subsidiary Anthem, and now the Connecticut State Comptroller. They all believe that WellPoint should reveal more information about how much of the corporation’s money is being spent, and on what. Note that nobody is asking WellPoint to stop making these contributions; they are asking for greater transparency.
WellPoint’s response is that they are complying with all applicable rules, regulations, and legal requirements. I’m sure they are; it would be stupid not to. They also say that they have ideas to contribute to the public discussion of healthcare delivery; I’m sure that’s true, also, although I suspect their major contribution to the discussion is “Gimme.”
They further claim that they are acting in the best interests of their customers, which is the same disingenuous nonsense we always get when a company finds yet another way to skin a cat. It usually boils down to “We raised our prices to serve you better.”
Let’s get to the question behind the question: should corporations be able to spend their shareholders’ money (remember, the shareholders actually own the company) to benefit causes that some shareholders or customers don’t like?
In the case of customers, I think it’s an open and shut case. Customers have no say in the operations of a company. If you find a company’s policies to be odious, for whatever reason, you should take your business elsewhere (assuming you can, but that’s another story).
In the case of shareholders, they should have a say but only in proportion to their stake in the company. Like it or not, if you are in the minority then you lose.
That being said, the issue being discussed is how much a corporation should be required to disclose. I believe it should every jot and tittle of their lobbying expenses and contributions.