It’s not every day that one of the world’s biggest corporations files an ethics complaint against a little-known government official -- in fact, if it’s happened before, I missed it --but that’s exactly what Chevron did last week in the state of New York.
The company accused Thomas DiNapoli, the state comptroller, who oversees the state’s pension fund, of accepting about $60,000 in campaign contributions from lawyers and supporters of people who are suing Chevron in Ecuador. The campaign donations, it is alleged, influenced DiNapoli to use his power as the trustee of the pension fund, which owns Chevron stock, to push Chevron to settle the long-running, bitterly-fought lawsuit.
Imagine. Politicians being influenced by campaign donations.
Chevron would know about that. Last month, the company donated $2.5 million to the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC that supported House Republican candidates. The donation “appears to be the largest contribution from a publicly traded corporation to a political group” since the Supreme Court’s Citizen United ruling, The Washington Post reported. Chevron also spent nearly $15 million on Washington lobbying since the start of 2011, the Post said.
So … evidently, it’s fine for Chevron to lavish money on politicians -- the company said it supports candidates who are “committed to economic development, creating affordable energy, strengthening American businesses, and delivering good government” -- but unethical for its opponents to do so.
As it happens, Chevron’s complaint against DiNapoli was not even the most surprising news about the company to surface last week. Even more unexpected was the announcement that Chevron was being added to the holdings of the Nasdaq OMX CRD Global Sustainability Index, a “benchmark for stocks of companies that are taking a leadership role in sustainability performance reporting.”
The Nasdaq CRD Index is used to help guide investors seeking companies that are more sustainable. Just a few months ago, at the Rio + 20 confab, Nasdaq and several other stock exchanges promised, along with the UN Global Compact, to “promote long-term, sustainable investment in their markets.”
But what does that mean when an index includes Chevron, America’s second-biggest oil company?
Next page: How sustainability indexes deal with fossil fuel companies