It has been over two years since 10 corporate law professors petitioned the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) asking for new oversight measures that would increase the transparency of corporate spending in elections.
The petition, which currently has more than 600,000 comments on the SEC website, would compel publicly traded companies to disclose political spending figures to shareholders. The SEC ruling on this was expected to come sometime this year — and as 2013 draws to a close, efforts are being ramped up to draw attention to the issue.
Last week, Prof. Robert Jackson Jr., one of the original filers of the SEC petition, was joined by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) at a briefing hosted by Public Citizen to encourage supporters to keep pressing for reform. The lawmakers highlighted their plans for legislative action should the SEC ruling run aground.
While executives justify their political contributions as benefiting the greater corporate interests, perhaps by helping to secure lucrative government contracts, lack of disclosure and executive accountability also offers opportunity for shareholder funds to be misused. One risk, for instance, is that executives may make political spending decisions to further their own personal political agendas or even their future careers in government.