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Enemy #1 of Secret Corporate Money in Politics

By Jon Golinger

Following the Supreme Court’s disastrous 2010 decision in Citizens United, overturning a century of law and giving corporations free rein to spend unlimited amounts on elections, Public Citizen helped form the Corporate Reform Coalition to bring together a broad collection of investors, academics, securities experts, labor, and national and state-based public interest groups to address the overwhelming influence of corporations on elections.  Public Citizen plays a leading role in the Corporate Reform Coalition’s work, providing key staffing and organizational support.  Since Citizens United, the coalition’s focus on the need for corporate political disclosure and the demand from shareholders for this information has provided an effective framework within the Court’s legal constraints to work to mitigate the massive damage caused by the flood of secret money corporations are spending to shape American politics.

A recently released report by a right-wing think tank affiliated with indicted former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows signals just how effective corporate lobbyists themselves think our work has been.  Naming and Shaming, a report by the right-wing American Accountability Foundation, listed the Corporate Reform Coalition and Public Citizen first in a list of groups that have successfully championed transparency and backed corporate shareholder resolutions to persuade companies to disclose their political and lobbying spending to their investors.  The report asserts that the movement to get companies to disclose their political and lobbying spending to investors is “a real, tangible threat” that could even put corporate lobbyists “out of business.”  Tax filings show that the group behind this report is closely related to Mark Meadows’ Conservative Partnership Institute in Washington, D.C.

If the point of this report is to show that Public Citizen and our allies are working hard every day to shine a spotlight on the massive amount of secret money corporations spend to bend American politics and policy to serve their agendas instead of the public interest – we completely agree.  In fact, our work to push for regulations and legislation to require political spending transparency for investors has made a significant impact in the fight for corporate accountability.

It’s a badge of honor to be labeled enemy #1 of secret money influence spending by corporations, one we will wear with pride.

In the critical months ahead for our fragile democracy, the Corporate Reform Coalition and Public Citizen will continue to champion regulatory, legislative, and corporate governance solutions to strengthen the voices of shareholders and provide them the information they deserve about how their investments are used to influence American politics and policy.

As former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously wrote:  “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”  Now, more than ever, we need to let the sun shine in on corporate secret money and influence spending.