GE faces challenge over charitable donations

/ Source: The Associated Press

A General Electric Co. shareholder plans to ask the conglomerate Wednesday to disclose all of its charitable donations, particularly those to groups connected with the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

The issue is on the agenda of GE’s annual shareholder meeting in Greenville, S.C., which is Jackson’s hometown. GE opposes the resolution. ( is a joint venture between GE subsidiary NBC News and Microsoft.)

GE and its foundation gave $168 million to charity in 2005, the company said in its annual proxy statement. The National Legal and Policy Center of Falls Church, Va., a conservative group that owns 85 GE shares, wants the company to reveal any financial ties to Jackson and cut them if they exist.

The NLPC, which says its mission is to promote ethics in public life, has previously opposed other corporate donations to organizations affiliated with Jackson, as well as government funding for groups such as AARP. The group accuses Jackson of supporting controversial leaders in Africa and grabbing headlines in the Duke University lacrosse rape case by backing the now-discredited accuser before the facts were known.

A spokeswoman for Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition in Chicago did not immediately offer comment.

GE’s board says it opposes the proposal because the company already is transparent about its donations. GE spokesman Peter O’Toole said the company has not given directly to Jackson’s organization, but could not rule out that a GE grant recipient might have shared its funding.

NLPC president Peter Flaherty said his group has documented cases in which GE was listed as a sponsor of some Jackson events. “Whether our resolution passes or fails, we’re seizing on this opportunity to make a point,” he said.

The resolution is among nine shareholder proposals on Wednesday’s agenda. More than 10 billion outstanding shares are eligible to vote, with the vast majority of ballots already cast by mail or the Internet.