November 6, 2013
SEC Comment file 4-637
Dear Comment file 4-637,
Corporate money is rotting the notion of democracy in America, and there is something you can do to help. You can issue a rule to require publicly traded companies to publicly disclose all political spending.
Of course it makes sense from a corporation's perspective to use its wealth to buy politicians and legislation which increases profits (and conversely to kill regulation that harms profits). But corporate profits and the public good are usually on opposite sides of the scale, and the public interest is being bulldozed by loads of corporate money showered upon our political system.
Coal companies want to promote candidates that will cheerlead for dirty fossil fuels, deny climate change, and try to get rid of the EPA.
Monsanto and other pesticide companies want politicians who will promote poisons and genetically modified food organisms, deny the harmfulness of our food and agriculture industries, and stock the USDA and FDA with industry-friendly 'regulators.'
But if they are going to use millions of dollars to try to achieve their profit agenda, despite the impact on the public, everyone in America at least needs to be able to see how they are subverting democracy with their money. Currently this is often happening in the dark, where the public can't make the connection between politicians and corporations. Average people can't compete with corporate money, but they do have their vote and their ability to choose not to patronize a corporation which is causing them harm. But only if they can see the connection.
Even shareholders in these corporations are in the same boat as the public, since the company often hides its political spending from them as well.
A step in the right direction for addressing this imbalance would be to require public disclosure of corporate political spending. That way, people can trace the money, understand the connections, and vote (and
spend) accordingly. There is also a good chance that a corporation which knows it will have to expose its attempts to subvert democracy to the public and shareholders will decide not to even try in the first place.
Democracy has taken some horrible blows in recent years in America (the disgraceful Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, for instance).
A public disclosure rule for corporate spending, requiring prompt posting on the SEC's web site, would help tip the scales back a small amount toward the vast majority of Americans.
Thank you for considering my comment.