Sept. 28, 2016

Rider That Keeps Corporate Political Spending Secret Must Be Cut From December Funding Package for 2017

Statement of Lisa Gilbert, Director, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division

Note: Lisa Gilbert co-chairs the Corporate Reform Coalition, a group of investors, nongovernmental organizations, securities experts and public interest groups in favor of a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring publicly traded companies to disclose their political spending to shareholders. She also co-chairs the Clean Budget Coalition, more than 200 organizations fighting to keep harmful riders out of the appropriations process.

It is unfortunate that one price of avoiding a government shutdown was the inclusion of a poison pill rider that will help to keep corporate political spending secret. If the agreement that just passed in the U.S. Senate also passes in the U.S. House of Representatives, this rider will remain in the continuing resolution for the next two months, but it must be taken out of the final government funding package to be negotiated later in the year.

It is hard to believe that in the midst of a close national election and with a government shutdown looming, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) demanded the inclusion of a poison pill policy rider to keep the SEC from finalizing a rule that would bring political money from big corporations into the sunlight. McConnell’s insistence on this provision is a marker of its importance and raises obvious questions about just how much dark money is flowing into Republican campaign coffers.

The principle behind the SEC disclosure rule is simple: Investors should not be left in the dark as to whether executives are spending their invested funds on political causes that may run counter to shareholder interests. More than 1.2 million Americans and retail investors, along with securities experts and institutional and pension investors, have pressed the SEC for a rule requiring publicly traded companies to disclose their political spending. And last year, a bipartisan group of three former SEC chairs and commissioners also urged action.

Public Citizen thanks our champions in Congress who fought so hard to remove the rider that blocks the SEC’s rule from the continuing resolution: U.S. Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), as well as U.S. Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Mike Capuano (D-Mass.). When Congress resumes work later in the year, we will redouble our efforts to remove this rider and all harmful riders from the appropriations process.