Non-profit

Business Roundtable

Website:

www.businessroundtable.org

Location:

WASHINGTON, DC

Tax ID:

23-7236607

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(6)

Budget (2017):

Revenue: $42,756,253
Expenses: $49,287,729
Assets: $31,048,558

Formation:

1972

President:

Joshua Bolten

Type:

Corporate-interest lobbying group

Business Roundtable is a trade association and lobbying group whose membership consists of 181 CEOs from major American companies, including Walmart, Amazon, and Apple. [1] The organization supports broadly pro-business policies, including streamlined business regulations, immigration liberalization, increased infrastructure spending, environmentalist energy subsidies, free trade, and corporate tax reductions. In 2019, Business Roundtable employed 76 lobbyists and spent nearly $20 million on lobbying,[2] making it the eighth-largest funder of lobbying activities at the federal level. [3]

Business Roundtable’s lobbying and political contributions go primarily toward Republican candidates and causes, though in most election cycles, Democrats receive a sizeable minority of donations as well. [4]

The 181 companies of Business Roundtable collectively employ more than 15 million people, earn $7 trillion in revenue, and donate more than $8 billion in charitable contributions per year. [5]

In 2019, Business Roundtable made headlines when it released a statement purporting to redefine the purpose of a corporation from primarily serving shareholders to primarily serving customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and society as a whole. [6]

History

Business Roundtable was formed in 1972 by the merger of two lobbying nonprofits: the Construction Users’ Anti-Inflation Roundtable and the Labor Law Study Committee. The following year, the March Group, co-founded by the chairman of Alcoa and the CEO of General Electric, merged with the Business Roundtable. [7]

The organization’s early objective was to organize corporate CEOs to support free-market policies. [8] In 1975, Business Roundtable successfully lobbied against an antitrust bill, and then in 1977, it defeated a campaign for the early formation of the Consumer Protection Agency led by Ralph Nader. [9] That same year, Business Roundtable rallied Senate Republicans to oppose a pro-union bill sponsored by the AFL-CIO. [10]

Business Roundtable’s influence reached its height under the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. It lobbied for lower taxes, deregulations, and the opening of foreign markets to American trade. Business Roundtable spearheaded lobbying for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). President Ronald Reagan spoke at Business Roundtable’s annual dinner in 1988. [11]

Since the mid-1990s, Business Roundtable’s major policy goals have shifted away from free-market advocacy towards broader pro-corporate government policies. In 2010, the Washington Post called Business Roundtable President Barack Obama’s “closest ally in the business community.” Though the organization opposed many of the administration’s tax and healthcare reform efforts, Business Roundtable supported many of Obama’s economic policies, including environmentalist energy subsidies, financial reforms to support mortgage lending, laxer immigration restrictions, and federally funded job-training programs. [12][13]

Policy Positions

Education

Business Roundtable supports increased government expenditure on education. In particular, it promotes more science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in grades K-12, an emphasis on vocational education for student loans and grants, and government-funded job training and retraining for college graduates. [14]

Energy and Environment

Business Roundtable supports increased environmental regulations and subsidies to encourage environmentally friendly policies in businesses. These include direct subsidies and government-provided incentives for investment in environmentalist energy. However, Business Roundtable supports primarily private initiatives to reduce carbon emissions. [15]

Health

Business Roundtable supports private innovations and initiatives to reduce health care costs. Large corporations in particular are encouraged to create “wellness programs” to increase employee wellbeing and reduce health care needs. [16]

Immigration

Business Roundtable supports increased immigration for its economic benefits. It supports the “Dream Act,” which would provide legal status and a path to citizenship for certain illegal immigrants, and argues for a streamlined immigration process, especially for high-skilled labor. [17]

Infrastructure

Business Roundtable supports increased government spending on infrastructure, particularly highways and canals. In 2015, the organization published “Road to Growth: The Case for Investing in America’s Infrastructure,” a report on the negative economic effects of current infrastructure spending levels. [18]

Tax and Fiscal Policy

Business Roundtable supports a corporate tax policy that maintains competitiveness with foreign markets. It argues that foreign corporate taxes are set to decline in the coming decade, and U.S. taxes should keep pace. [19]

International Trade

Business Roundtable supports lowering trade barriers and tariffs. It endorsed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). However, Business Roundtable supports tougher trade regulations and restrictions on China to oppose what it sees as unfair trade practices. [20]

Redefining the Purpose of a Corporation

In 2019, Business Roundtable issued a statement purporting to redefine the purpose of a corporation from serving shareholders to serving so-called “stakeholders,” including employees, suppliers, customers, local communities, and the general American economy. [21]

The redefinition has been criticized by pundits on both sides of the ideological spectrum. Left-of-center critics like UC Berkeley professor and Clinton administration Secretary of Labor Robert Reich claim that corporate members of Business Roundtable are using the redefinition as a public relations maneuver to distract from unpopular employment policies, especially companies like Amazon and Apple which are often accused of mistreating employees. [22] Right-of-center critics like economist George Shultz claim that the redefinition misunderstands the fundamental mechanisms of free market-economies, and that deprioritizing shareholders will lower productivity and ultimately harm all stakeholders. [23]

Political and Advocacy Expenditures

Lobbying

Since 1998, Business Roundtable has spent over $304 million on lobbying,[24] including between $10-28 million per year since 2008. [25] It has employed dozens of lobbying firms, including PricewaterhouseCoopers, Duberstein Group,[26] and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. [27]

In 2019, Business Roundtable’s primary lobbying focus was on international trade,[28] particularly the USMCA,[29] followed by government issues, immigration, taxes, transportation, and education. [30]

Individual Campaign Contributions

Since 1990, Business Roundtable and people who list it as their employer on federal disclosures spent $354,375 on federal political contributions. [31] From 1992 to 2020, Business Roundtable gave between 71.43% and 100% of its political contributions to Republican candidates in each cycle. [32] Total contributions remained below $10,000 per cycle up until 2002, and has since remained in the tens of thousands ever since. Contributions peaked during the 2016 election cycle at over $63,000, of which $52,000 went to Republicans. [33]

The largest single recipient of Business Roundtable’s contributions has been the National Republican Senatorial Committee. [34]

References

  1. “Members.” Business Roundtable. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.businessroundtable.org/about-us/members. ^
  2. “Client Profile: Business Roundtable.” Business Roundtable. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/federal-lobbying/clients/summary?cycle=2019&id=D000032202. ^
  3. “Business Roundtable.” Open Secrets. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs//summary?topnumcycle=A&toprecipcycle=All%20cycles&contribcycle=All%20cycles&lobcycle=All%20cycles&outspendcycle=All%20cycles&id=D000032202. ^
  4. “Candidates.” Open Secrets. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/recipients?candscycle=2020&toprecipscycle=2020&id=D000032202. ^
  5. “About Us.” Business Roundtable. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.businessroundtable.org/about-us. ^
  6. “Business Roundtable Redefines the Purpose of a Corporation to Promote ‘An Economy That Serves All Americans.’” Business Roundtable. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.businessroundtable.org/business-roundtable-redefines-the-purpose-of-a-corporation-to-promote-an-economy-that-serves-all-americans. ^
  7. “About Us.” Business Roundtable. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.businessroundtable.org/about-us. ^
  8. “About Us.” Business Roundtable. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.businessroundtable.org/about-us. ^
  9. “Getting Down to Big Business: A Conservative American Romance (Part 2).” The Nation. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/getting-down-big-business-conservative-american-romance-part-2/. ^
  10. “Getting Down to Big Business: A Conservative American Romance (Part 2).” The Nation. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/getting-down-big-business-conservative-american-romance-part-2/. ^
  11. “Getting Down to Big Business: A Conservative American Romance (Part 2).” The Nation. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/getting-down-big-business-conservative-american-romance-part-2/. ^
  12. “Business leaders say Obama’s economic policies stifle growth.” Washington Post. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/22/AR2010062205279.html. ^
  13. “Getting Down to Big Business: A Conservative American Romance (Part 2).” The Nation. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/getting-down-big-business-conservative-american-romance-part-2/. ^
  14. “Education & Workforce.” Business roundtable. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.businessroundtable.org/policy-perspectives/building-americas-tomorrow-ready-workforce. ^
  15. “Energy & Environment.” Business Roundtable. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.businessroundtable.org/policy-perspectives/energy-environment. ^
  16. “Health & Retirement.” Business Roundtable. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.businessroundtable.org/policy-perspectives/health-retirement. ^
  17. “Immigration.” Business Roundtable. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.businessroundtable.org/policy-perspectives/immigration. ^
  18. “Infrastructure.” Business Roundtable. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.businessroundtable.org/policy-perspectives/infrastructure. ^
  19. “Tax & Fiscal Policy.” Business Roundtable. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.businessroundtable.org/policy-perspectives/tax-fiscal-policy. ^
  20. “Trade & International Engagement.” Business Roundtable. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.businessroundtable.org/policy-perspectives/trade-international. ^
  21. “Business Roundtable Redefines the Purpose of a Corporation to Promote ‘An Economy That Serves All Americans.’” Business Roundtable. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.businessroundtable.org/business-roundtable-redefines-the-purpose-of-a-corporation-to-promote-an-economy-that-serves-all-americans. ^
  22. Reich, Robert. “The Sham of Corporate Responsibility.” Robert Reich. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://robertreich.org/post/189983256735. ^
  23. Shultz, George, Boskin, Michael, Cogan, John, and Taylor, John. “Some Thought on the Business Roundtable’s Statement of Corporate Purpose.” Real Clear Markets. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.realclearmarkets.com/articles/2020/02/05/some_thoughts_on_the_business_roundtables_statement_of_corporate_purpose_104069.html. ^
  24. “Business Roundtable.” Open Secrets. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs//summary?topnumcycle=A&toprecipcycle=All%20cycles&contribcycle=All%20cycles&lobcycle=All%20cycles&outspendcycle=All%20cycles&id=D000032202. ^
  25. “Annual Lobbying by Business Roundtable.” Open Secrets. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/federal-lobbying/clients/summary?cycle=2019&id=D000032202. ^
  26. “Hired Firms.” Open Secrets. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/federal-lobbying/clients/hired-firms?cycle=2019&id=D000032202. ^
  27. “Lobbyists.” Open Secrets. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/federal-lobbying/clients/lobbyists?cycle=2019&id=D000032202. ^
  28. “Issues.” Open Secrets. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/federal-lobbying/clients/issues?cycle=2019&id=D000032202. ^
  29. “Trade & International.” Open Secrets. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.businessroundtable.org/policy-perspectives/trade-international. ^
  30. “Issues.” Open Secrets. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/federal-lobbying/clients/issues?cycle=2019&id=D000032202. ^
  31. “Business Roundtable.” Open Secrets. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs//summary?topnumcycle=A&toprecipcycle=All%20cycles&contribcycle=All%20cycles&lobcycle=All%20cycles&outspendcycle=All%20cycles&id=D000032202. ^
  32. “Candidates.” Open Secrets. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/recipients?candscycle=2020&toprecipscycle=2020&id=D000032202. ^
  33. “Contributions.” Open Secrets. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/totals?id=D000032202. ^
  34. “Business Roundtable.” Open Secrets. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs//summary?topnumcycle=A&toprecipcycle=All%20cycles&contribcycle=All%20cycles&lobcycle=All%20cycles&outspendcycle=All%20cycles&id=D000032202. ^
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: November 1, 2017

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2017 Dec Form 990 $42,756,253 $49,287,729 $31,048,558 $0 N $155,000 $40,537,220 $1,160,734 $5,996,727 PDF
    2016 Dec Form 990 $34,546,625 $32,433,081 $37,580,034 $0 N $0 $33,492,664 $1,160,559 $2,739,105
    2015 Dec Form 990 $34,796,673 $35,309,802 $35,466,490 $0 N $0 $33,155,401 $961,007 $2,580,509 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $33,235,423 $28,868,657 $35,979,619 $0 N $32,248,680 $0 $239,765 $2,499,771 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $32,343,051 $26,230,557 $31,612,853 $0 N $31,370,756 $0 $240,396 $2,321,076 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $31,447,745 $26,499,198 $25,500,359 $0 N $30,890,644 $0 $286,308 $2,187,967 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $31,156,521 $24,259,039 $20,551,812 $0 N $30,342,820 $0 $306,132 $2,887,528 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Business Roundtable

    300NEW JERSEY AVE NW800
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