U.S. senators Menendez, Warren press SEC over political spending

Reuters

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Two U.S. Senate Democrats onWednesday urged the public to ramp up their pressure on federalregulators to adopt new rules that would require publiccompanies to disclose their political spending, saying such arule will shine a light on corporate influence in elections.

New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez and Massachusetts SenatorElizabeth Warren spoke at an event on Capitol Hill organized bythe backers of a political spending disclosure rule, includingthe non-profit Public Citizen.

In brief speeches, they told supporters to keep pressing theU.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and said they wouldalso push for legislation that would require such disclosuresshould their pleas fall on deaf ears.

"Our collective job is to urge them. Push them. Harass themuntil they do the right thing," Warren told the group. "This onereally matters. It matters for our business world. It mattersfor our democratic world."

Advocates have been pressing the SEC for action on apolitical spending rule for several years now, after a group ofprofessors filed a petition with the SEC requesting arulemaking.

The idea was prompted by the Supreme Court's 2010 CitizensUnited decision, which held that independent expenditures bycorporations are constitutional and paved the way for spendingby groups known as super political action committees.

The previous SEC leadership placed the topic on a list ofpossible rulemaking areas for the agency to consider.

But a political spending disclosure requirement has yet toprogress into a formal proposal, and only one SEC commissioner -Democrat Luis Aguilar - has publicly embraced the idea.

The SEC's new Chair Mary Jo White, who took over in April,has not directly given her views on the topic.

She told a U.S. House committee earlier this year that theSEC was not actively writing a rule, and several weeks ago, shegave a speech in which she said she generally opposed writingdisclosure rules designed to apply social pressures oncompanies.

Meanwhile, just last week, Republican SEC CommissionerDaniel Gallagher gave a speech saying it would be a waste of theagency's time to write political spending rules and that suchdetails were not crucial to helping investors make decisions onwhich stocks to buy or sell.

Menendez, who introduced a bill earlier this year to mandatepolitical spending disclosures, told the audience on Wednesdaythat such information is "very material to how shareholdersdecide where to invest their money and how to vote in corporateelections."

"It's simple," he added. "It's shareholders' money, and theyshould know whether the corporate managers who work for them arespending it for political purposes."

An SEC spokesman declined to comment.

View Comments (5)