The New US Office Politics: Funding Your Boss's Political Causes

Walmart Annual Meeting
APWalmart Stores Inc.'s Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley during the Walmart shareholders' meeting in Fayetteville, Ark.

By Michelle Conlin and Lucas Iberico Lozada

It wasn't long ago that politics, like religious orientation or sexual preference, was a taboo topic in the American workplace. Political beliefs were considered a private affair - off limits to the boss.

But today employers are increasingly approaching workers to fundraise, lobby and campaign in ways they never have before, according to a Reuters analysis of FEC filings and data compiled by the Business Industry Political Action Committee. The Washington trade group, which has offices across the street from the White House, helps firms such as Wal-Mart, Halliburton and Lockheed Martin mobilize employees on policy issues important to the companies.

For years it was unions and trade associations that were the politically powerful workplace players, operating political action committees (PACs) that raised millions of dollars to support their preferred candidates. But since a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that allowed for unlimited political spending by corporations, the number of companies engaged in this sort of activity - be it nudging employees to write letters, donate, campaign or vote - has risen 45 percent to 7,317, according to BIPAC's internal research, seen by Reuters.