Sifting through the donations to charity from 1998 to 2015 by foundations set up by the largest companies in the United States — those in the Fortune 500 or the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index — Marianne Bertrand of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business; Matilde Bombardini and Francesco Trebbi of the University of British Columbia; and Raymond Fisman of Boston University detected a pattern of contributions to 1,087 charities linked to 451 members of Congress.
Turns out that the spending is a little more self-serving than companies would have us believe. Some of the charitable giving looks a lot like corporate lobbying. Because companies get a break for such giving, it amounts to political spending at taxpayers’ expense. “Firms deploy their charitable foundations as a form of tax-exempt influence seeking,” the researchers write.