Disney Shareholders Reject Motion to Publicly Disclose Lobbyist Contributions

Only 32% of shareholders approved plan to disclose Disney’s political spending after company did not speak out against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill

Disneyland (Getty Images)

A majority of Disney shareholders voted on Wednesday against a proposed motion to require the company to disclose its lobbying policies and spending in its annual reports.

The motion only received votes in support representing 32% of all shares, with 63% against and less than 5% abstaining. The Disney board of directors recommended a “no” vote for the motion.

The vote comes two days after the leak of an internal memo in which Disney CEO Bob Chapek defended the company’s decision not to speak out against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would ban “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” in primary schools and is expected to be signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis after it was passed by the Republican-controlled Florida State Senate.

While Chapek wrote that he and the rest of Disney leadership “unequivocally stand in support of our LGBTQ+ employees, their families, and their communities,” he also said that “corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds. Instead, they are often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame.”

“Simply put, they can be counterproductive and undermine more effective ways to achieve change,” he continued.

During the shareholder meeting, a proponent for the disclosure motion said that Disney spent $48 million in federal and state lobbying efforts, but that information on which politicians Disney contributed to can only be found in a scattered network of government public records databases, which can be difficult for the public to access and navigate.

Last month, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Disney had given money to every sponsor and co-sponsor of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, including State Sen. Dennis Baxley, who has had a long history of supporting anti-LGBTQ legislation including a bill that would block gay couples from adopting children.

The report was met with sharp condemnation by Abigail Disney, daughter of Roy E. Disney and grandniece of Walt Disney, who has publicly spoken out against pay inequity at Disney and poor wage and working conditions for Disneyland employees.

“I could not be more unhappy with their political activities, both in terms of whom they fund and how they lobby,” Disney tweeted last week. “I would strongly support a law to require all corporations to reveal ALL of their funding and lobbying moves.”

Chapek responded to the Sentinel report in the internal memo, saying that none of Disney’s lobbying contributions to Florida lawmakers was based on the bill, and that Disney had “contributed to both Republican and Democrat legislators who have subsequently taken positions on both sides of the legislation.” He also wrote that the company’s Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Geoff Morrell, would reassess the company’s lobbying strategies, including political contributions.

During the shareholders meeting, Chapek added that Disney had worked “privately” to oppose the “Don’t Say Gay” bill but could not sway Republican lawmakers. Chapek also said he would meet with Gov. DeSantis to discuss the bill before he makes his decision on whether to sign it.