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Obama Should Make Corporations Disclose Their Political Spending

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Reprinted from Campaign For America's Future

From flickr.com/photos/47422005@N04/6681996931/: Citizens United Carpet Bombing Democracy - Cartoon
Citizens United Carpet Bombing Democracy - Cartoon
(Image by DonkeyHotey)
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How much money are corporations putting into elections? Which corporations are putting in how much? Are corporations that are looking for contracts giving money to politicians who can push contracts to them? Are corporations channeling money from foreign interests into our politics?

Who knows? Companies don't have to tell We the People how much they are spending to get tax breaks, waivers from laws and regulation, special trade deals and the like. They don't even have to disclose this information to their own shareholders. They don't even have to disclose this if they are getting federal contracts.

Currently corporations can put unlimited amounts of money into our elections, and keep that money secret. Obviously there is at least the appearance of corruption here, if not flat-out bribery going on. But there is no way for the public to know because there is no way to follow the money.

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After the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling opened up campaign finance to unlimited corporate and billionaire money, the public started asking the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to at least require companies to disclose how much money they were putting into the system, and who was getting it. In 2011 a group of corporate law professors petitioned the SEC to make such rules. That petition received more than a million backers. Also the SEC received more than a million comments asking for such a rule. Nothing happened. 2012 -- nothing. 2013 -- nothing. 2014 -- nothing.

So far this year efforts to get the SEC to act continue. Also there are efforts to get President Obama to issue an executive order requiring federal contracts to disclose how much money they are putting into politics, possibly in order to get those federal contracts:

In March, more than 50 organizations sent a letter asking President Obama to require federal contractors to disclose their spending on political campaigns. Obviously, the public should know if and how much federal contractors are influencing those who decide what to spend on federal contracts.

In April, public interest groups delivered petitions signed by more than 550,000 citizens calling on the president to require this disclosure.

In May more than 70 investor groups and foundations with stock holdings sent a letter to SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White asking the SEC to require corporate political spending disclosures.

Also in May several former top Securities and Exchange Commission officials, concerned about the appearance of corruption, sent an open letter to SEC Chair Mary Jo White asking the agency to require corporations to disclose their political spending.

"Shareholders have a right to know where their money is going, especially when it comes to politics," said Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which joined on the letter.

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In June, 26 senators and 104 representatives sent a letter to President Obama calling on him to at least require disclosure by federal contractors.

In August 44 U.S. senators asked the SEC to require public companies to disclose political spending to their shareholders.

Now it's October, still nothing. Not from the SEC and not from President Obama.

Regulatory Capture

"Regulatory capture" is a term for when a regulating agency acts in the interests of those it is supposed to regulate instead of the public. The Securities and Exchange Commission appears to be one such "captured" agency. The SEC, for years now, is flat-out refusing to require the big corporations to let shareholders and the public know what they are doing with their money when it comes to influencing politics.

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Dave has more than 20 years of technology industry experience. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. He was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational (more...)
 

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