Senate Banking Committee Members Led by Schumer, Merkley and Menendez Call on SEC Nominees to Support Disclosure of Corporate Political Spending

Oct. 21, 2015

Senate Banking Committee Members Led by Schumer, Merkley and Menendez Call on SEC Nominees to Support Disclosure of Corporate Political Spending

Former Republican SEC Chair Joins Call for Nominee to Back a Disclosure Rule

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Democratic members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and a Republican former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chair are calling on President Barack Obama’s nominees for SEC commissioner to support a rule that requires public companies to disclose their political spending.

Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) were joined in a telephone press call today by former SEC Chair William Donaldson, a Republican, who echoed the importance of a nominee who believes in a disclosure rule.

The request shows the growing support for a rule – highlighted by a recent letter (PDF) that 44 senators sent to the agency – particularly as the 2016 presidential election season heats up.

“In the pursuit of good corporate governance and a new commissioner who puts Main Street first, we heartily agree with the case made by the banking committee senators,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Support for a rule requiring disclosure of corporate political spending should serve as a metric for a qualified nominee, and the outcry for this rule by investors must no longer be ignored.”

Backing for an SEC rule requiring corporate political disclosure is strong. The SEC has received more than 1.2 million public comments in favor of political spending disclosure, including from leading academics in the field of securities law, investment managers and advisers, 70 major endowed foundations, Vanguard founder Jack Bogle and a number of state treasurers.

Additionally, a group of former SEC commissioners, including former SEC Chairs Arthur Levitt (a Democrat) and Donaldson (a Republican), and former SEC Commissioner Bevis Longstreth (a Democrat), have commented in support.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, corporate political spending has gone unchecked. Only about 2 percent of all public companies in the United States disclose their political spending to shareholders, and they do so voluntarily. Nonprofits that are not required to disclose their corporate donors have spent more than $600 million to influence federal elections since 2010.

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