SEC acts on corporate political spending disclosure

The SEC commits to a corporate political spending disclosure after Public Citizen generates a historic demonstration of support.

  • 700,000 Number of signatures supporting an SEC political spending disclosure rule by the end of 2013 .
  • 56 Number of U.S. senators and members of the U.S. House of Representatives combined who filed a public comment in support of a disclosure rule.
  • 81% Number of Americans who believed that corporations should spend money on political campaigns only if they disclose their spending immediately.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has a responsibility to protect investors by regulating the securities markets and giving them the information they need to make investment decisions. Shareholders need to know what the companies they invest in are doing with their money.

This is especially true with corporate political spending. Even U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, emphasized the importance of disclosure and accountability for corporate political spending, writing that disclosure requirements “provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters.”

Yet Citizens United opened the floodgates to secret corporate political spending to influence elections.

This dark money in politics is in stark contrast with the transparency and accountability the American people want. So Public Citizen spearheaded a campaign to generate public support for the SEC to require public companies to disclose to shareholders the use of corporate resources for political activities.

In January 2013, the SEC announced that it would consider drafting a corporate political spending disclosure rule.

The demand for a rule was historic: by the end of 2013, the petition had more than 700,000 signatures.

We congratulate the SEC for listening to investors and the public, in moving forward on a rule that would require publicly traded companies to disclose their political spending. For [SEC Chair] Mary Schapiro it is an important legacy, and we ask the incoming chair to move the rule forward to completion this year. Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch

Highlights

  • Public Citizen spearheaded a petition calling for the SEC to require publicly held corporations to disclose to investors information about their political spending.
  • Investors, lawmakers, large groups of firms and activists showed overwhelming support; the petition garnered more than 700,000 signatures.
  • Polling showed that 8 in 10 Americans supported disclosure of corporate political spending, with both Republicans (77%) and Democrats (88%) in favor.