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Md. companies earn low marks as businesses disclose more political giving

** FILE ** The headquarters of Lockheed Martin is shown, Friday, June 25, 2004, in Bethesda, Md. The company got a rude shock last weekend as news leaked out that the Pentagon is proposing deep cuts in some major company programs, including the $72 billion F/A-22 stealth fighter. Lockheed could reportedly lose $18 billion in the next six years if the cuts go through.(AP Photo/Leslie E. Kossoff) ORG XMIT: BA101
** FILE ** The headquarters of Lockheed Martin is shown, Friday, June 25, 2004, in Bethesda, Md. The company got a rude shock last weekend as news leaked out that the Pentagon is proposing deep cuts in some major company programs, including the $72 billion F/A-22 stealth fighter. Lockheed could reportedly lose $18 billion in the next six years if the cuts go through.(AP Photo/Leslie E. Kossoff) ORG XMIT: BA101 (LESLIE E. KOSSOFF / Associated Press)

As the nation heads toward another pricey presidential election, many of its largest companies are providing shareholders with more information about their corporate political donations, a report released Thursday has found.

The study, conducted by the Center for Political Accountability, delivered low grades to several companies with ties to Maryland -- including Baltimore-based money management firm T. Rowe Price and Silver Spring-based Discovery Communications.

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The annual report grades firms on whether they disclose contributions to candidates, parties and super PACs, but also to trade groups and tax exempt organizations -- which can be so hard to track that the contributions are referred to as "dark money."

The nonpartisan Center for Political Accountability has been pressing the issue at a time when outside political spending has proliferated national elections because of Supreme Court decisions that have lifted restrictions on corporate giving.

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Several Democratic presidential candidates, including frontrunner Hillary Clinton, have called for greater disclosure by companies than is currently required by the Federal Election Commission or the Internal Revenue Service.

"At a time of spiraling political spending and soaring dark money, our findings reflect sustained, concrete progress in the direction of corporate political disclosure and accountability," Bruce Freed, the group's president, said in a statement.

"There's paralyzing government gridlock over regulating disclosure, yet the index shows that voluntary corporate political disclosure continues to move forward."

For 83 companies studied by the Index since 2011, the overall average score improved to 71.3 in 2015 from 45.2 in 2011, according to the report. For 186 companies studied by the index since 2012, the overall average score improved to 59.4 this year from 38.1 in 2012.

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The top company in Maryland, Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin, received a score of 78.6 while Hunt Valley-based McCormick scored 72.9. Others didn't fare as well: Silver Spring-based Discovery received a score of 14.3 and T. Rowe received a zero.

Officials at Discovery and T. Rowe did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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