Here’s the bad news. Since January 2010 we’ve been living with the consequences of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission (FEC) and of subsequent court cases that have brought us unlimited corporate spending, unlimited individual spending, Super PACs, and what will likely be the first ever billion dollar election. Dark money is pouring into the race from nonprofits while a feckless FEC and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allow their existing loophole-ridden rules and regulations to be trampled and ignored, and refuse to promulgate new more effective ones. Corporations are funneling money into the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for campaign related expenditures, whoops, I mean “educational activities.” And in the meantime, voters have been left completely in the dark by a Congress too polarized to pass the DISCLOSE Act.
However, there is some good news to report. The Corporate Reform Coalition has released a report detailing the work of corporate responsibility advocates titled, “Sunlight for Shareholders.” Made up of institutional investors, good governance groups, academics, small businesses, elected officials and more, the Corporate Reform Coalition has developed an innovative approach to dealing with corporate spending in elections. Though our system of money in politics is in crisis, the report shows there are attainable solutions.
On the federal level much is being done to create a system where corporations are accountable to both their shareholders and to voters. Advocates continue to press for the DISCLOSE Act and its life beyond this session’s Republican filibuster, as well as for the Shareholder Protection Act (SPA). There is broad public support for these reforms. In a recent poll conducted by Clarus Research Group on behalf of Common Good, 88 percent of respondents said that all campaign contributions and expenditures should be disclosed. Another poll commissioned by Common Cause showed 80 percent of respondents agreed that corporations should be required to get approval from shareholders before spending money on politics. Even more ground has been gained at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) where a group of law professors submitted a petition last August asking the agency to create a rule that would require publicly traded companies to disclose their political spending. The rule has the support of SEC Commissioner Luis Aguilar, as well as 43 members of Congress. The petition has also been met with astounding support from the public. More than 300,000 people have left supportive comments for the petition; beating the previous all-time comment record by more than 100,000.