February 10, 2012
Securities and Exchange Comm.
Dear Securities and Exchange Comm.,
I am on a mailing list for Common Cause, which is how I learned about this rulemaking petition. I do not agree with everything proposed by Common Cause, and in fact, I find it a little frustrating that I had to dig a bit to find a copy ot the actual petition filed with the SEC. The email I received from Common Cause did not include a link to the petition itself. It included a link a page on their website with a tool for putting my name on a generic comment supporting the petition.
Rather than simply adding my name to the list, I looked into the details because this is an issue to which I have given considerable thought. What the petition proposes is very similar to what I concluded-- long before Citizen's United-- would be an appropriate curb on corporate influence in elections. As stated in the generic comment, I am deeply concerned about the influence of corporate money on our electoral process. Until I looked at this petition, though, I never considered the problem of corporate influence from the shareholders' perspective. I've always felt that it is misguided to treat corporate entities as persons with constitutional rights. I also felt that respect for free market economics does not demand that corporations be free of regulation. The very concept of a corporate charter is a violation of free market economics, because it limits the liability of investors for any wrongdoing by the corporation to the amount invested. It is this limitation of liability that makes it possible for corporate entities to amass the large pools of wealth that in turn allows them to exercise much greater influence that would be possible in a true market economy in which every individual is responsible for his own actions.
My own proposal to curb corporate influence in elections? Simply require any corporation that spends money to influence an election be forced to publish its entire list of shareholders.
While it would certainly dissuade corporations from making campaign contributions, the problem with my brute force disclosure proposal is that it does not consider the investor perspective. This petition, however, does focus on shareholders and makes it clear that providing relevant information to investors should be the guiding motivation for SEC regulations. Thus, while I am appalled that the Supreme Courtís ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission gives corporations fee reign to finance political campaigns, the SEC should be very concerned for the narrower reason that the Citizens United decision allows publicly traded corporations to conceal expenditures of shareholder funds on politics.
What I'd really like is a reversal of the rule that gives corporate entities equal status with real persons for certain constitutional rights. That, of course, is beyond the authority of the Securities and Exchange Commission. However, I fully support this petition to have the SEC issue a rule requiring publicly traded corporations to publicly disclose all their political spending.
Thank you for considering my comment.