The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is getting with the times and is now receptive to Public Citizen’s push to require publicly traded companies to disclose their political spending. At today’s conference, “SEC Speaks,” Securities "Lisa Gilbert"and Exchange Commissioner Luis Aguilar loudly championed the key reform of political spending disclosure, saying that “investors are not receiving adequate disclosure, and as the investor’s advocate, the commission should act swiftly to rectify the situation.”

Aguilar’s message is pitch-perfect.

Corporations generate massive profits, in part because of investments by their shareholders. And corporations’ new license to spend – a gift in the form of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission – could have real consequences to investors.

The idea that U.S. corporations can make unlimited political expenditures without giving its shareholders any knowledge of the spending is both anti-democratic and bad for the market.

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in Citizens United incorrectly assumed that comprehensive disclosure requirements were already on the books. For publicly traded companies, the SEC can and should close this gap.

Lisa Gilbert is the deputy director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. Follow her @Lisa_PubCitizen and @CorporateReform for the latest on issues like this!

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Comments

  • While disclosure would help, it’s not enough. Forcing the revelation of who bribes whom and with how much may simply add legitimacy to what should be considered illegal acts.

    The ability to bribe public officials with money or gifts should be ended by making the practice illegal and enforcing the law with prison time.

    Political campaigns should be publicly financed at all levels and the power and influence of lobbyists severely restricted.

  • leon stone

    the citizens United decision was a travesty. It needs reversing

  • Bob Perry

    It defies logic to believe Kennedy, a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, assumed anything when writing the opinion as damaging to our representative Democracy as Citizens United. The court is well aware that corporations have no responsibility to natural persons, communities, societies in whole or in part; that their only responsibility is to their shareholders. The pro-corporate majority went out of its way to broaden the scope of Citizens United. Indeed, SpeechNow, two months later, further opened the floodgates to anonymous corporate self-interest in U.S. elections. Corporations will never comply with actual honest, full disclosure. It is not in their interests to do so. Only an amendment to the Constitution can protect the rights of natural persons, and provide authority for natural persons to control corporate influence.

  • [...] to highlight and combat political spending are picking up steam. Last week, strong pro-disclosure remarks by Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) Commissioner Luis Aguilar channeled the public’s [...]

  • [...] to highlight and combat political spending are picking up steam. Last week, strong pro-disclosure remarks by Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) Commissioner Luis Aguilar channeled the public’s [...]

  • [...] to highlight and combat political spending are picking up steam. Last week, strong pro-disclosure remarks by Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) Commissioner Luis Aguilar channeled the public’s [...]

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