SEC won't even force corporations to disclose campaign contributions to shareholders
by David Atkins
Since our glorious Supreme Court has seen fit to decide that in every instance money is equivalent to speech in politics, serious campaign finance legislation seems to be off the table for the time being absent a constitutional amendment. Given that new laws limiting actual spending cannot be passed, activists have gone for the next best thing: disclosure. There are state-based disclosure laws being considered in states across the country, including and especially California, where there's a big push for laws that would require the head of the main sponsor to actually appear on camera, for the top donors to be prominently displayed, etc. The challenge with these laws is "pierce-through": requiring disclosure that pierces through the various front groups to get at the real sources of the money.
Another hoped-for attempt at corporate spending disclosure was among shareholders. The idea is that if campaign spending by corporations is disclosed to shareholders, that information will spread out publicly. It would also theoretically lead many shareholders to question the value of said spending to the company's bottom line.
The corporate disclosure rules were being considered by the SEC, which would have the authority to put them in place. The typical right-wing types opposed the potential new rules tooth and nail.
So the SEC decided to give up on the idea:
The Securities and Exchange Commission has dropped from its rulemaking agenda a contentious proposal to require publicly traded firms to disclose campaign spending to their shareholders. The Chamber of Commerce is quite pleased.
The decision, heralded by First Amendment defenders, reflects a major setback for a campaign launched in 2011 to counter the influx of corporate political spending in recent election cycles.
“There’s no accountability for political spending for the folks that actually own the companies — the shareholders,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “This is sort of a slap in the face to investors that have been demanding this.
The SEC announced it was considering imposing the regulations late last year, when it included the measure on its 2013 regulatory agenda. The action came in response to a petition submitted by a group of law professors contending that shareholders have a right to know how companies involve themselves in politics.
The agency was flooded with 640,000 comments, the vast majority backing the plan. But the agency has remained largely silent on the issue this year, and a 38-item regulatory agenda unveiled just before Thanksgiving contains no mention of the proposal.
Business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also opposed new corporate giving regulations, calling the proposal a thinly veiled effort to drive the business community out of politics and public policy issues.Keep in mind: nothing about the proposed rules created any limits at all on business spending in elections. It was just an attempt to make the spending by corporations transparent to their own shareholders. These people know that their actions are so immoral and so contrary to even the business' own best interests that they don't even want their own shareholders to know about it.
"We are pleased that the SEC saw this proposal for what it was," Chmber spokeswoman Blair Latoff Holmes said Monday. "Campaign finance reform is not, has never been, and should never be a function of the SEC."
If only there were some sort of Chief Executive who could put pressure on the SEC to do the right thing...