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WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. PIRG commends the 44 Senators who signed on to a letter calling on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Mary Jo White to move forward with rulemaking requiring publicly traded companies to disclose their political spending, a necessity for shareholder democracy. This letter marks a record number of signers from the Senate to the SEC.
“Political spending disclosure has received record support at the SEC. First they received over 1.2 million public comments and now a letter signed by 44 senators. It is clearly time for Mary Jo White to act and protect investors by disclosing corporate dark money,” said Elise Orlick, Democracy Associate at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG).
Spearheaded by Senators Merkley, Menendez, Schumer, Udall, and Whitehouse, the letter voices their support for a rulemaking petition which the Commission has previously considered, requesting that it be placed back on the agenda for the coming year.
When the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United, it opened the floodgates to corporate spending that often enters elections as dark money with zero accountability. Shareholders, the true owners of a corporation, remain in the dark just like the rest of the public because there are no rules or procedures established to ensure that a company’s owners know how their money is being spent.
The letter states, “Because shareholders are the true owners of a corporation, a public company should be required to disclose to its owners how their money is being spent. When it comes to spending on political activity, only roughly 2.2% of all public companies in the United States make such disclosures, and they do so voluntarily.”
The agency has received a record 1.2 million comments on this rule but has yet to act. The letter also lays out other notable constituencies that have called on the SEC to act, including former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt, former SEC Chairman William Donaldson, and former Commissioner Bevis Longstreth, as well as 70 foundations.
The rule was originally placed on the SEC’s agenda for consideration in 2013, but was removed in 2014 by Mary Jo White. The Senators requested that the Commissioner provide explanation if she chooses to once again leave the rule off of the agenda for the coming year.
U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups, is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organization that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.
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