It used to be against the law for executives to spend funds from their massive corporate treasuries to directly influence elections. But two years ago this week, the Supreme Court declared such restrictions unconstitutional — and short of a constitutional amendment, it’s hard to get around that. The Court never said corporations should be able to spend all that money in secret, however. So on Thursday, a coalition of campaign reform and corporate transparency advocates called attention to their petition to persuade the Securities and Exchange Commission to require that corporations publicly disclose their political contributions.
“We need to know who’s influencing American elections,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), one of several backers of the petition, during a conference call with reporters. “We need to know who those corporate interests are and we need to know where they are from, so we can openly determine what they want.” Of the SEC, Menendez said, “It’s the least they can do.”
In reaching its January 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Court “imagined and assumed” there were already robust reporting requirements for political spending, said Robert Jackson, a Columbia Law School professor and a chief author of the SEC petition. “We were dismayed to see the Supreme Court make that assumption because it’s not the case,” he said.