The U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United v. FEC ruling has allowed corporate CEOs to unleash a torrent of secret corporate spending into our political system.
Indefensibly, CEOs are able to keep both the public and their own shareholders in the dark about the use of company funds for political ends.
This gives CEOs free rein to make political expenditures that they would never be able to justify publicly — including campaigns so toxic they would inevitably tarnish the company’s brand were the funding source made public.
And the results have been absolutely corrosive to our democracy.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which is a federal agency, can require publicly traded companies to disclose the money they spend on politics. And they are accepting public comments on the merits of doing so.
To be clear, what we really need is to get all corporate money out of politics, to roll back Citizens United, end corporate personhood and institute public financing of elections. And we are working hard toward those long term goals.
But in the short term, given how corrupt the system is, disclosure of corporate political spending would be a meaningful, though small, step forward. And it’s one we can achieve.
While the likes of the Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board are opposed to this idea, it’s actually a commonsense idea that is not especially ideological.
In fact, nearly 60% of the S&P 100 companies already voluntarily disclose their political spending to investors. And of the remaining S&P 100 corporations, 50 had shareholder votes about political issues in 2011.1
Already one SEC Commissioner has come out in favor of the idea. We just need two more to agree.
Earlier this year, 100,000 CREDO members signed a petition telling the Securities and Exchange Commission to require publicly traded companies to disclose their political spending.
And recently, a Wall Street Journal blogger reported that agency officials were evaluating whether to recommend precisely such a rule.2
In part, this process was due to, according to one high-level SEC staff member, “the large number of comments and strong interest…”
That means we’re having an impact, and we can’t stop now.
Tell the SEC: Don’t let corporations hide their political spending. Click the link below to submit a public comment:
Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets