Transparency in campaign finance is a key element to ensure the electoral system works fairly without undue influence from major corporations. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is considering a rule to force public companies to disclose their political spending to their shareholders. This simple rule would bring accountability to previously unaccounted for political spending.
In December, the SEC announced that it would consider a proposed rule to require that public companies provide disclosure to shareholders regarding the use of corporate resources for political activities. A petition requesting this rulemaking was filed in 2011 by a bipartisan committee of leading law professors. The SEC has a responsibility to protect investors by regulating the securities markets to ensure that they have the information they need to make investment decisions.
American business is very diverse, and this diversity is a great strength. However, different businesses need different things that are not always in the best interest of the country. The question is whether those who contribute the greatest amount of fund get to decide our economic and other policies or rather we make our decisions based on the merits of what is best for our businesses and our economy for the long-term based.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, tax-exempt groups not required to disclose their donors spent $300 million on the 2012 election cycle. We are seeing that vast majority of industries contributing the largest sums in election campaigns are able to influence a wide range of policies and advance their positions. Through the influence of unlimited and hidden campaign contribution, research is showing that these contributors are:
- More likely to defend the industries of the past than the industries innovating for the future like moving from toxic chemicals to safer chemicals and products.
- Committed to old energy sources rather than making America a leader in clean and renewable energy.
- Multinational giants rather than small, midsized and Main Street business that are creating the majority of jobs in this country.
- Are often companies that are utilizing oversees tax haven and not contributing their fair share of taxes to the economy.
- Are often the companies receiving the largest subsidies
Few businesses can afford or want to contribute significant sums of money in the political process. As elections become more expensive, the voices of those who can make smaller contributions will be drowned out. Most business owners want to reinvest profits in growing their companies and creating more jobs rather than spending revenues in an unpredictable political process. Even the largest multinationals stand to lose if secrecy and lack of limits leads to bidding wars in competitive races. Now is the time to take the first step and put forward rules to ensure disclosure of these campaign contributions. Let us know who is making which donations to which politicians and they let us be able to better understand the influence that this money is having upon our policy makers decisions.
As of May 1, a record-breaking 500,000 investors and members of the public had submitted comments, the vast majority supporting the proposed rule. Some policymakers, however, have called on the SEC to drop consideration of the issue. It is important that the SEC continue to see strong public support for this rule.
Send a comment today to the SEC to express your support for this rule. Money in politics is detrimental to our democracy and to many small and medium sized businesses. Transparency and disclosure is the first step in reforming campaign finance.
To add your voice, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be sure to include the petition number, #4-637, in the subject line.