Posts tagged with: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

This past week, The Huffington Post’s Paul Blumenthal offered up a piece of agitprop masquerading as trenchant political analysis. It seems – well, not seems inasmuch as Blumenthal pretty much declares outright – that he isn’t much of a fan of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s antipathy toward shareholder proxy resolutions promoting political spending disclosure policies. Likewise, writes Blumenthal, three other “usual suspects” – the Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers and The Wall Street Journal – are aligned with the Chamber against all that the left considers right and proper regarding corporate political transparency and disclosure.

In the article, tellingly titled “The Chamber of Commerce Is Fighting Fiercely to Stop the Scourge of Corporate Transparency,” Blumenthal writes as if guided by the hands of the Center for Political Accountability’s Bruce Freed and the religious activists at As You Sow and the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility:

This spring, shareholders in more than 100 companies will introduce resolutions calling for greater disclosure of corporations’ political and lobbying activity. Six major companies — Dean Foods, Eastman Chemical, H&R Block, Marathon Oil, U.S. Steel and Valero Energy — have already reached agreement with New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who oversees the third largest pension fund in the nation, to adopt political spending disclosure policies in exchange for the comptroller’s office withdrawing its resolutions.


1333630489130_3671856Back in the 1960s and ‘70s, those of us of a particular bent loved the word “freedom.” The word was featured in the lyrics of many popular songs of the era, and the case could be made that hippies were called freaks as a pun on their oft-chanted “free” mantra. Heck, there was even a band named Free, which captivated the zeitgeist with a classic song about a man angling for a little “free” love with a woman too savvy to succumb so easily.

Free speech also once was all the rage. Lenny Bruce and George Carlin’s infamous seven words and all that, am I right? So, what happened? When did the hippies, yippies, liberals and progressives transition from fetishizing all things related to freedom to checking under their beds every night for a missing Koch brother? (more…)

With the mountain of books and articles that have been written about business ethics, one wonders why nothing much has been written on what we might call shareholder ethics. I’m thinking of religious shareholder activists such as As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. As it turns out, these groups trade on the moral status of their respective members to further agendas seldom related to matters of religious faith.

Instead, the clergy and religious in shareholder activist groups dedicate themselves to temporal causes of a distinctly left-of-center stripe, including stifling corporate political speech in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. According to Acton’s Rev. Robert Sirico:

Every annual meeting season, we watch as a small group of activist groups on the left such as As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility submit proxy resolutions that demand disclosures of corporate public policy expenditures. This is done, these groups claim, in furtherance of a more ‘just and sustainable world.’ In fact, such resolutions are designed to first bully corporations into disclosing lobbying activities and then promptly turn the tables by conducting aggressive campaigns in the press to shame them. (more…)

Shortly after filing my blog yesterday, the New York Times’ David Firestone added another wrinkle. It seems liberal billionaires also contribute millions of dollars to voice their strongly held beliefs regarding climate change:

Those who are worried about man-made climate change might be tempted to welcome the news that Tom Steyer, a Democratic billionaire, will spend $100 million this year to fight it. Mr. Steyer plans to put up half the money himself for attack ads against governors and lawmakers who ignore climate change, and will raise the rest from like-minded rich people.

Yet, the religious shareholders filing proxy resolutions from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and Tri-State Coalition on Responsible Investment persist in their handwringing over campaign and lobbying monies contributed by libertarian and business-friendly individuals and institutions. Since the U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United ruling, however, money from the left is just as – if not more – pervasive, according to Alan Suderberg and Ben Weider of the Center for Public Integrity.

Since the Supreme Court loosened rules on political spending in 2010, the Republican Party, boosted by corporate and billionaire backers, has been painted as the biggest beneficiary. But in New Hampshire and a handful of other states in 2012, Democrats flipped the script.

In New Hampshire, groups backing Democrats reported spending nearly $1 million more than their Republican counterparts.

Nonprofits, super PACs, and other non-candidate groups reported spending at least $209 million to influence elections in 38 states, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics (NIMSP) and state elections offices.

Pro-Democratic groups, many associated with unions, outspent their Republican counterparts by more than $8 million, according to the Center’s analysis. (more…)


Liberal Dark Money in your wallet?

Your writer possesses well-meaning friends forever vigilant in my best interests. Most recently, one such kind soul sent an email alerting me to the dangers of so-called “dark money” in the political process. Believing himself on the side of the angels – and fully onside with activist nuns, priests and other religious – my friend sought my assistance in the fight against “evil” corporations participating in the political process.

So I got the following in my inbox. And all I had to do for America’s campaign finance salvation was sign a petition circulated by The Daily Kos and People for the American Way:

Bruce, join Daily Kos and People for the American Way in urging the SEC to require that publicly traded corporations disclose their political spending….

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling was a travesty, which has opened the floodgate to corporate money in our political spending. Repealing it via a constitutional amendment will take years, but there’s something we can do in the meantime that will go a long way.

The Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) is the federal agency with the job of protecting investors from corporate abuse. It is well within its authority to require that publicly traded corporations disclose their political spending—but it won’t happen without a fight.

End the shroud of secrecy. Join Daily Kos and People For the American Way in urging the SEC to require that publicly traded corporations disclose their political spending. (more…)

No! Not the Dark Money!

No! Not the Dark Money!

“Dark money” sounds menacing and foreboding – a financial nomenclature suggestive of gothic masterpieces like “The Raven” and “The Black Cat.” Whereas Poe’s tales actually contain sinister elements, the phrase dark money is employed by activist shareholders much like the villains of countless “Scooby Doo” cartoons devised illusory ghosts, werewolves and vampires. The evildoers wanted to scare those meddlesome Mystery Machine kids from nefarious moneymaking schemes.

The anti-capitalism messages of “Scooby Doo” are repeated by those ominously intoning the perceived evils of so-called dark money in politics. In ordinary political usage, dark money refers to funds raised to finance an election campaign or ballot initiative without any requirement of public disclosure before voters decide the question.

Shareholder activists have torn a well-worn page from the “Scooby Doo” playbook by adopting the tactics of the show’s bad guys. These tactics include attempts to frighten voters with the dark money bogeyman, who lurks behind other pet issues such as genetically modified organisms and fracking (hydraulic fracturing). (more…)

birdsflock“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.). (more…)