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July 18, 2012

On the Heels of DISCLOSE Act, Members of Congress, Investors, Public Officials and Small Businesses Continue to Push for Transparency

Sens. Menendez, Whitehouse, Merkley Commit to Continue the Fight for Disclosure of Political Spending

 WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, in the wake of a Republican filibuster of the DISCLOSE Act, small business owners joined forces with Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and the Coalition for Accountability of Political Spending (CAPS), the bipartisan group of state officials led by New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, to commit to continue the push for desperately needed transparency of political spending.

The public call for transparency is sought through final passage of the DISCLOSE Act and the Shareholder Protection Act, and by calling on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to take the lead in casting light on secretive corporate political spending.

The press conference participants gathered to hammer home the point that the DISCLOSE Act filibuster is not the last chance for transparency and to stress that they will not give up on either the bill or on other transparency remedies to deal with out-of-control political spending. 

 At today’s event, the senators rallied with investors, small business interests and the public to pressure Congress to move ahead with disclosure legislation and for the SEC to develop rules and guidelines for responsible and transparent corporate political spending. Menendez also is championing the Shareholder Protection Act (S. 1360) to require shareholder consent of corporate political spending decisions.

For nearly a year, a petition filed by 10 law professors has been pending before the SEC. It asks the agency to require public companies to disclose their political spending to shareholders. An all-time record of 300,000 comments has been received by the agency from institutional investors, businesses and the public, urging the SEC to enact such a requirement.

The historic number of supportive comments submitted to the SEC speaks volumes about the importance and public demand for greater transparency of money in elections and for responsible corporate governance. Under the current free-for-all of unlimited corporate political spending caused by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, CEOs may simply dip into the corporate till and spend that money on elections without the consent or knowledge of shareholders. The public also remains in the dark about secret corporate spending in elections.

 The campaign to open the books on corporate political spending is supported by the Corporate Reform Coalition, a broad and diverse coalition of more than 75 groups, including institutional investors, businesses and transparency activists.

The petition for rulemaking (#4-637) and the public comments on the rulemaking are available here.

Investors, businesses, groups and the public are encouraged to continue filing comments to the SEC on the petition for rulemaking.

“Despite the disgraceful blocking of the DISCLOSE Act by Republican senators this week,  Americans will continue to fight for new disclosure requirements,” said Lisa Gilbert, acting director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division and co-chair of the Corporate Reform Coalition. “We will push Congress to step up to the plate, and work to make sure that the SEC fulfills  its mandate and protects investors. Voters deserve to know who is behind every political ad.”


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