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Reining in corporate power through shareholder protection

As we build the movement to pass a Constitutional Amendment to rein in corporate power in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, there are several legislative measures on the table to mitigate the problem in the short term. Congress should act on these measures quickly to lessen the impact of massively increased corporate spending anticipated in the 2010 elections.

One of these measures is shareholder protection. U.S. P.I.R.G.’s Lisa Gilbert points out in the Huffington Post that nearly half of all American households own stock.  If the corporations in which they own stock want to spend money from their general treasuries to influence elections, the shareholders — who are the real owners of these corporations — should have a say.

Gilbert goes on to make a very compelling case for the kind of shareholder protection that Congress could enact though Rep. Mike Capuano’s (D-MA) proposed Shareholder Protection Act (H.R. 4357).

First, the right to a fair return on their investment, and secondly (and most ironically in the context of Citizens United), the first amendment right to remain silent in political debate or to support a candidate of their choosing. When a CEO chooses to use corporate money to support causes which may be antithetical to a given shareholder’s wishes, in essence he or she is violating the shareholder’s first amendment rights.


The idea that U.S. corporations can make unlimited political expenditures without giving its shareholders any knowledge of the spending or receiving their consent is an appalling one. Congress should quickly support Rep. Capuano’s Shareholder Protection Act and work to attach it to Rep. Van Hollen legislative package, two pieces of legislation that are very clearly in the public interest.

We need to create a world where no one will ever have to wonder if their invested money is supporting a cause they don’t believe in. The Shareholder Protection Act takes us one step in that direction.

You can learn more about these measures to limit the influence of corporate money in our elections at DontGetRolled.org.