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Shareholder Protection Act Would Restore Responsible Governance to Corporate Political Spending Decisions

April 25, 2013

Shareholder Protection Act Would Restore Responsible Governance to Corporate Political Spending Decisions

Endorsed by 39 Civic Groups, Institutional Investors and Transparency Organizations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Shareholder Protection Act, reintroduced today by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), is critical legislation because it would bring responsible corporate governance to corporate political spending by involving shareholders in those spending decisions and keeping the public informed of them, a coalition of 39 groups said today.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision reversed decades of political tradition prohibiting direct corporate financing of elections and overnight made CEOs of wealthy businesses principal players in American elections,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Unless there are internal policies to the contrary, CEOs now can literally dip into the corporate till and spend that money without limit promoting or attacking candidates.”

The Shareholder Protection Act already has eight original co-sponsors in the Senate and 24 in the House of Representatives. Specifically, the act would:

  • Mandate prior approval by shareholders for an annual political expenditure budget chosen by the management for a publicly held corporation;
  • Require that each specific corporate political expenditure over a certain dollar threshold be approved by the board of directors and promptly disclosed to shareholders and the public;
  • Require that institutional investors inform all persons in their investment funds how they voted on corporate political expenditures; and
  • Post on the Securities and Exchange Commission website how much each corporation is spending on elections and which candidates or issues they support or oppose.

“Corporate treasuries should not be political play things for CEOs,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Responsible corporate governance requires informed shareholders, capable of holding management accountable and ensuring that spending decisions are made in the best interests of the business.”

The endorsing organizations are from diverse backgrounds, with concerns ranging from protecting the environment and preserving the bottom lines of businesses to ensuring transparency of money in elections.

“Responsible corporate governance requires the involvement of informed shareholders and is not a partisan issue,” noted the groups in a letter to Congress. “We believe that holding management accountable and ensuring that political spending decisions are made transparently and in pursuit of sound business is important for both the market and for democracy.”

To read the coalition endorsement letter of the Shareholder Protection Act, go to: https://www.citizen.org/sites/default/files/coalition-letter-supporting-shareholder-act-2013.pdf.

The coalition includes the following groups:

Brennan Center for Justice at N.Y.U. School of Law, Center for Media and Democracy, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Citizen Works, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Coffee Party USA, Common Cause, Corporate Accountability International, Corporate Ethics International/Business Ethics Network, Democrats.com, Demos, Free Speech for People

Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Harrington Investments, Inc., Holy Cross International Justice Office, Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, Krull and Company, League of Conservation Voters, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, National Consumers League, New Progressive Alliance, North Carolina Center for Voter Engagement, NorthStar Asset Management, Inc., Ohio Citizen Action, People for the American Way, Progressive States Network, Public Campaign, Public Citizen, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Social Equity Group, Ron Freund and Duncan Meaney, Strategic Counsel on Corporate Accountability, Sanford Lewis, Sunlight Foundation, Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG), United Food and Commercial Workers, West Virginia Citizen Action, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Zevin Asset Management, LLC