"Following Citizens United v FEC, spending by outside groups funded largely by corporate interests exploded. Outside groups spent more than three times as much money to influence the 2010 elections as they did in 2006, the last mid-term cycle. The ads funded by unaccountable corporate interests fueled massive attacks that helped to shape the 2010 election cycle. Though it cannot undo the Court's decision, several key approaches can help to blunt unchecked corporate spending by forcing greater disclosure of corporate contributions to political campaigns and by allowing the shareholders who own the corporation greater input. This campaign will work to limit the impact of the Citizens United decision by exposing corporate influence in our elections and bringing new accountability to corporate behavior via shareholder protection solutions.
Our organizations come from diverse backgrounds, with concerns ranging from constitutional rights to corporate governance to protecting our air and water. We have many different priorities, but we all agree that last year’s unprecedented Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, requires a strong response.
We are troubled for several reasons by the Supreme Court’s decision to give corporations the right under the First Amendment to spend unlimited funds from their corporate treasuries to support or attack candidates.
In the electoral arena, this decision has brought a flood of new money into elections, ratcheting up the cost of campaigns and increasing the time and resources needed for fund raising. Spending by outside groups funded largely by corporate interests and intended to influence the 2010 elections was more than four times as high than in 2006, the last mid-term cycle. The ads funded by unaccountable corporate interests fueled massive attacks that compounded the negative tone of campaigns and added to the public cynicism of our elections.
In the legislative arena, the mere threat of unlimited corporate political spending gives corporate lobbyists a large new club to wield when lobbying lawmakers, and makes it harder for legislators to vote their conscience.
In corporate governance, there are no rules or procedures established in the United States to ensure that shareholders – those who actually own the wealth of corporations – are informed of, or have the right to approve, decisions on spending their money on politics.
Corporate disclosure and the raised voices of shareholders can help provide a framework to rein in some of the damage in this troubling, new political landscape. We support a variety of legislative and corporate governance solutions to strengthen the voices of the owners of a company and to provide them with the information they deserve concerning the spending of their money in politics.
A SurveyUSA poll commissioned by People for the American Way in February 2010 found that 75% of Americans believe that publicly traded companies should get approval from their shareholders before spending money on an election. Support for shareholder protection was strong across all ideological groups surveyed, with Republicans and those who identified as conservative slightly more likely to support shareholder protection provisions (79%) than Democrats and those who identified as liberals (74%).
Responsible corporate governance requires the involvement of informed shareholders and is not a partisan issue. 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.
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