“Byrdes of on kynde and color flok and flye allwayes together,” wrote William Turner in 1545. If he were with us today, the author might construct an interesting Venn diagram representing the activist birds scheduled to testify tomorrow before the Securities and Exchange Commission. But, rather than briefly overlapping sets of circles, the SEC witnesses for greater corporate “disclosure” comprise one giant bubble of activists seeking to circumvent the U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United ruling, including Laura Berry, executive director, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.
Berry joins a gaggle of like-minded individuals who somehow think the country benefits from forcing “publicly traded companies to disclose their political spending,” according to a joint Public Citizen’s Congress Watch/Columbia Law School Public Affairs media advisory. Among Berry’s peeps clamoring for tightening SEC rules are Heidi Welsh, Sustainable Investments Institute; Pat Doherty, Office of the New York State Comptroller; and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
ICCR, readers will recall, routinely bombards corporate America with shareholder proxy resolutions which form a dense cloud, much like the swallows returning annually to Capistrano. These resolutions call for company disclosure of political and advocacy donations, which “allow shareholders and voters to hold executives accountable for political spending,” as quoted by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in the media alert.
This clarion for executive accountability amounts to little more than naming the recipients of corporate donations in an attempt to shame and bully the companies to cease such contributions to groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, The Heartland Institute and the American Council on Science and Health. Research and advocacy from these groups, it should be noted, are the firewall between the protection of corporate interests – and therefore the interests of shareholders, employees and consumers – and unfettered liberal ideology pertaining to such practices as hydraulic fracturing, climate change and genetically modified organisms.
It’s anticipated Berry and her murder will grouse in favor of proposed rules presented by several law professors – including Robert Jackson, Columbia Law School, also testifying tomorrow – who petitioned the SEC for corporate lobbying and donation disclosure in 2011. One also can anticipate frequent references to the 500,000 comments trumpeting increased disclosure on the SEC website. Many of these comments acknowledge corporate expenditures on donations and lobbying often are miniscule, but claim the sheer volume of advocates for disclosure renders the need imperative. A perfunctory glance, however, reveals these comments are Astro-turf, mustered from less than a dozen sources, including shareholder activists, unions and leftist organizations.
In other words: horse feathers.