According to an article in today's New York Times, the "Securities and Exchange Commission has been flooded with calls to require publicly traded corporations to disclose to shareholders all of their political donations."
A loose coalition of Democratic elected officials, shareholder activists and pension funds has flooded the Securities and Exchange Commission with calls to require publicly traded corporations to disclose to shareholders all of their political donations, a move that could transform the growing world of secret campaign spending.
S.E.C. officials have indicated that they could propose a new disclosure rule by the end of April, setting up a major battle with business groups that oppose the proposal and are preparing for a fierce counterattack if the agency’s staff moves ahead. Two S.E.C. commissioners have taken the unusual step of weighing in already, with Daniel Gallagher, a Republican, saying in a speech that the commission had been “led astray” by “politically charged issues.”
A petition to the S.E.C. asking it to issue the rule has already garnered close to half a million comments, far more than any petition or rule in the agency’s history, with the vast majority in favor of it. While relatively few petitions result in action by the S.E.C., the commission staff filed a notice late last year indicating that it was considering recommending a rule.
In response to the growing pressure, House Republicans introduced legislation last Thursday that would make it illegal for the commission to issue any political disclosure regulations applying to companies under its jurisdiction. Earlier this month, the leaders of three of Washington’s most powerful trade associations — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Business Roundtable — issued a rare joint letter to the chief executives of Fortune 200 companies, encouraging them to stand against proxy resolutions and other proposals from shareholder activists demanding more disclosure of political spending.
Tax-exempt groups and trade associations spent hundreds of millions of dollars on political advertising during 2012 elections, but they are not required to disclose their donors. Evidence has mounted that a significant portion of the money came from companies seeking to intervene in campaigns without fear of offending their customers, their shareholders — or the lawmakers they target for defeat.
Read more at nytimes.com »
Visitors to the S.E.C. website can review many of the thousands of comments submitted concerning the proposed rule. Here is one:
I am deeply concerned about the influence of corporate money on our electoral process.
In particular, I am appalled that, because of the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, publicly traded corporations can spend investor's money on political activity in secret.
I am writing to urge the Securities and Exchange Commission to issue a rule requiring publicly traded corporations to publicly disclose all their political spending.
Both shareholders and the public must be fully informed as to how much the corporation spends on politics and which candidates are being promoted or attacked. Disclosures should be posted promptly on the SEC's web site.
Thank you for considering my comment.
Right now, Super PACs don't have to disclose their unlimited corporate donations. That means they can keep the public in the dark about who's funding the attack ads that bombard their TV screens daily.
That's why I'm joining with the 14 United States senators who formally asked you to use your regulatory authority to require that corporations disclose their spending in elections.
SEC: Exercise your regulatory authority to require public disclosure of corporate political contributions.