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WASHINGTON, DC – On Thursday, Senate leadership revealed language for a continuing resolution, which includes a rider preventing the Securities and Exchange Commission from strengthening corporate political spending disclosure. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid spoke out against the rider, defending the SEC’s ability to strengthen transparency in campaign spending, and highlighting the political cost of a government shutdown. The Senate must pass a continuing resolution by the end of September in order to keep the government running.
Currently, corporations may make unlimited contributions to social welfare groups that spend on elections without disclosing their donors. The SEC has faced significant public pressure, from lawmakers and the public, to require that publicly traded companies disclose their political contributions.
“Our lawmakers can’t pass standalone legislation blocking democracy reforms, so instead they snuck a provision into today’s continuing resolution behind closed doors,” said Dan Smith, Democracy Campaign Director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “That kind of politics is great if you’re raising money from special interest groups, but it shortchanges the American public. More than one million Americans have written the SEC asking for stronger disclosure requirements, and this week’s proposed continuing resolution would cut those efforts short. We encourage the SEC to continue developing disclosure rules and thank the lawmakers who’ve taken a stand against this week’s secret-money rider.”
A similar rider, prohibiting the SEC from strengthening disclosure requirements in FY16, was attached to the 2015 end-of-year budget bill. After it passed, ninety-four members of Congress signed a letter to SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White, urging the SEC to continue developing rules that strengthen corporate political spending disclosure without issuing or finalizing them.
The SEC has received 1.2 million public comments in favor of political spending disclosure, including from leading academics in securities law, investment managers and advisers, 70 major endowed foundations, and a number of state treasurers.
This year, corporations have already spent $65 million in disclosed political contributions, more than any other election in history. Secret-money groups, which do not disclose their donors, report over $60 million in political spending so far this cycle.
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