Three years ago, when the Supreme Court opened the door to unlimited political donations by corporations, Justice Anthony Kennedy made the case for transparency as the best way to keep politics clean. Thanks to the power of the Internet, Kennedy wrote in the landmark Citizens United decision, “shareholders can determine whether their corporation’s political speech advances the corporation’s interest in making profits, and citizens can see whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests.” Alas, the world he described does not exist. Citizens and shareholders can’t make these determinations because they lack the basic information to do so.
As the law stands, companies can’t donate directly to candidates. And certain types of political expenditures require disclosure, either by the donor or the recipient. But companies can secretly give unlimited amounts to independent political advocacy groups designed to get around the disclosure laws.
Some $315 million of this “dark money” flowed into the 2012 elections, according to Common Cause. And there is no way of knowing how much might have come from publicly traded corporations.
Now a group of shareholder advocates, government reformers and money managers is petitioning the Securities and Exchange Commission for a rule requiring disclosure of political spending.
Full Article: Make companies disclose political spending: Our view.