U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) today called on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to issue rules that would require corporations to disclose their political spending to shareholders.
In a letter to SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro, Ackerman, joined by 42 colleagues in the House of Representatives, urged that the agency require publicly-traded corporations to disclose to their shareholders all of their independent expenditures, electioneering communications, and donations to outside groups for political purposes, i.e. super-PACs. The Congressman called for these disclosures to appear on proxy statements, quarterly and annual reports, and registration statements.
Ackerman's letter is in response to last year's Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission,which ruled that corporations have the same First Amendment rights as American citizens to independently spend unlimited amounts of money for or against candidates running for public office. Shortly after the decision, Ackerman introduced the Corporate Politics Transparency Act, which would require corporations to disclose their political spending to shareholders. The measure, H.R. 2728, was reintroduced in August and has stalled in the Republican-controlled House Financial Services Committee.
"With the radical Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court created democracy-destroying beasts called super-PACs," said Ackerman. "Now, corporations can donate unlimited amounts of shareholder funds to Karl Rove political attack groups, without ever telling shareholders how their money is being used. The SEC should empower shareholders with the ability to hold corporate management accountable for their decisions by requiring transparency in corporate political spending. Shareholders have a right to know."
Ackerman's letter has been endorsed by leading good government groups and campaign-finance reform organizations, including the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), Public Citizen, Public Campaign, Sunlight Foundation, Common Cause, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, National Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending, and Democracy 21.
"Citizens United created a world where money from powerful special interests will increasingly drown out the voices of ordinary citizens," said Blair Bowie, Democracy Advocate at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. "The proposed SEC disclosure rules would allow us to follow the river of corporate money and may well be the first step in damming it up. We applaud members of Congress who are supporting this important first step to correct the gross mistakes of the high court."
"The American people deserve to know who's funding our elections," said Nick Nyhart, President and CEO of Public Campaign. "Rep. Ackerman should be commended for his leadership in pushing the SEC to require shareholder disclosure of campaign contributions because Americans must know which big corporations are trying to buy elections and preserve special interest tax loopholes."
"Now that corporate CEOs may spend freely from corporate treasuries promoting or attacking candidates, the SEC needs to establish reasonable corporate governance procedures to protect against abuse," said Craig Holman, Government Affairs Lobbyist for Public Citizen. "Responsible corporate governance requires the involvement of informed shareholders, holding management accountable and ensuring that political spending decisions are made transparently and in pursuit of sound business."