Gavel Grab

Ending Secret Money: More on SEC Disclosure Bid

A petition asking the Securities and Exchange Commission to require companies to disclose their political expenditures gets a vote of support from a Harvard Law School professor who says corporations ought not fear such disclosure.

Professor John C. Coates writes in a Washington Post op-ed, entitled “Fulfilling the Promise of ‘Citizens United,’” about a report he co-authored showing that “companies with pro-disclosure policies are generally more valuable.”

Justice at Stake has highlighted the importance of campaign finance disclosure on its website, saying “Special interest money poses a unique threat to courts, which have a constitutional obligation to be fair and impartial. Where competitive judicial elections are held, a key reform is the timely public disclosure of all campaign spending.”

A group of legal scholars submitted the SEC petition in August (see Gavel Grab). The Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United ruling in 2010 cleared the way for unlimited corporate spending on independent political expenditures. At the same time, the high court ruled 8-1 that all groups that spend to influence elections can be forced to disclose their financial sources.

A Huffington Post article about the new report, co-authored by Coates and the watchdog group Public Citizen, was headlined, “SEC Should Require Corporate Political Spending Disclosures: Report.”

A recent UPI article about the SEC petition reported, “A U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year opened the floodgates to corporate political donations, much of it secret, but a process begun in another government agency may force those donations into the light of day.”

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