April 28, 2012
Dear members of the Securities and Exchange Commission:
I am writing to urge the SEC to issue a rule requiring publicly traded corporations to publicly disclose all their political spending.
Both shareholders and the public must be fully informed as to how much the corporation spends on politics and which candidates are being promoted or attacked. Disclosures should be posted promptly on the SEC's web site.
After a West Virginia jury found respondents, a coal company and its affiliates (hereinafter Massey), liable for fraudulent misrepresentation, concealment, and tortious interference with existing contractual relations and awarded petitioners (hereinafter Caperton) $50 million in damages, West Virginia held its 2004 judicial elections. Knowing the State Supreme Court of Appeals would consider the appeal, Don Blankenship, Massey’s chairman and principal officer, supported Brent Benjamin rather than the incumbent justice seeking reelection. His $3 million in contributions exceeded the total amount spent by all other Benjamin supporters and by Benjamin’s own committee. Benjamin won by fewer than 50,000 votes. Before Massey filed its appeal, Caperton moved to disqualify now-Justice Benjamin under the Due Process Clause and the State’s Code of Judicial Conduct, based on the conflict caused by Blankenship’s campaign involvement. Justice Benjamin denied the motion, indicating that he found nothing showing bias for or against any litigant. The court then reversed the $50 million verdict. During the rehearing process, Justice Benjamin refused twice more to recuse himself, and the court once again reversed the jury verdict. Four months later, Justice Benjamin filed a concurring opinion, defending the court’s opinion and his recusal decision.
Held: In all the circumstances of this case, due process requires recusal. Pp. 6–20.
Thank you for considering my comment.