Flickr photo by 401(K)
Americans are still reeling from the cacophony of secret money and negative ads that was the 2012 election. Much of the money spent on the congressional and presidential campaigns came from undisclosed sources, underscoring the continued need to fight for reforms to promote transparency in elections.
To that end, Public Citizen and other members of the Corporate Reform Coalition have been pushing the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to create a rule that would require publicly traded corporations to disclose their political spending to their shareholders.
However, this rule has faced opposition from some groups which claim that shareholders neither want nor need this type of information on a company’s spending practices. That narrative is patently false, and many of these groups, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (PDF), have a political and financial stake in keeping shareholders in the dark. To the contrary, the results of this year’s shareholder season point to increasing levels of support for measures to bring accountability to corporate political spending.
The first indicator that shareholders are ready to see numbers on political spending is the sheer number of resolutions that have been filed.
There is only one thing abundantly clear in the polls right now: There is way too much money in politics. A new poll commissioned by the Corporate Reform Coalition found that nine out of 10 Americans agree there is too much corporate money in elections, and 51 percent strongly agree with that statement. For all you poll junkies out there, you’ll be relieved to know nine out of ten is way outside the margin of error.
The poll found strong evidence that not only do Americans think there’s too much money in politics, they believe this money has a damaging effect on our democracy. A whopping 81 percent believe the secret flow of money in politics is bad for our democracy. And 84 percent believe that corporate political spending drowns out the voices of average Americans. The same percentage believes corporate political spending makes Congress more corrupt. The results clearly show that Americans are ready for a dramatic revamping of the campaign finance system.
On that front, Americans broadly support commonsense reforms that have been stonewalled by this Congress. When it comes to the issue of disclosure, 85 percent of Americans believe prompt disclosure of political spending would help voters, customers and shareholders hold companies accountable for their political spending. Congress had the opportunity to provide that accountability earlier this year by passing the DISCLOSE Act, but the bill met a Republican led-filibuster in the Senate. Congress also has yet to move on the Shareholder Protection Act despite the fact that 73 percent of Republicans and Democrats support requiring corporations to get approval from their shareholders before spending in elections. Shedding light on corporate political spending enjoys the bipartisan support our presidential candidates could only dream of.
Corporate lobbyists and other political creatures intent upon distorting our democracy are descending on the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention.
Their objective is simple: To schmooze with and buy the gratitude of lawmakers who might be in power after the elections.
Most of what happens will be the (disturbingly) run-of-the-mill, “corporate corruption as usual” that happens every day in Washington, D.C. During the conventions, what so many cynically call “how Washington works” becomes “how Tampa works” and “how Charlotte works.
But some of what happens at the conventions may cross the line from everyday political corruption (outrageous as it may be) into violations of Congressional ethics rules and even outright illegal activity.
With help from citizens and journalists (and citizen journalists) attending the conventions, we’re working to hold lawmakers and special interests accountable when they cross the line. But we need your help.
Attending one of the conventions? Here’s what you need to know to keep an eye out for undue influence peddling:
1. During the conventions, all members of Congress are banned from participating in any event held in her or his honor if that event is hosted by a lobbyist (or a corporation or special interest group that employs registered lobbyists). [Paraphrased from House Rule XXV(8); Senate Rule XXXV(5)]
This rule expressly prohibits members of Congress from attending any convention party thrown by a lobbyist or lobbying organization where a specific member or members are identified by name and title as the honoree (including as a “special guest”), as well as events honoring a group composed solely of members, such as a congressional committee or congressional caucus (though the House ethics committee so far refuses to apply the rule to parties that honor groups of members).