Schumer: Companies Must Disclose Political Contributions to Shareholders and Public

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the federal government should require public companies to disclose their political contributions to shareholders and the general public.

“The SEC’s jurisdiction is more over shareholders. I would like the public to know. I think a good corporation should let the public know, but once the shareholders know it’s clear the information will get out to the public,” Schumer said on a conference call with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

Former SEC Chairman William Donaldson joined the lawmakers – each members of the Senate Banking Committee – to call on President Obama’s SEC nominees to require every public company to disclose their corporate political spending.

“I’m wholeheartedly behind what you are suggesting here,” Donaldson, who served in George W. Bush’s administration, said on the conference call.

Some corporations such as Wells Fargo and Intel have voluntarily disclosed their political spending. As of July 2014, “almost 70 percent of the top 200 companies in the S&P 500 disclose publicly their direct political spending,” according to the Center for Public Accountability.

Schumer told PJ Media only 2 percent of corporations disclose their political contributions. He argued that disclosure should be a rule that applies to all corporations instead of a choice. “I think you’re misinformed – 2 percent of corporations do it, so that’s a small number but not a lot,” Schumer said.

“This is a right of their shareholders to know and the SEC for many years of its grand history has been requiring companies to come clean with their shareholders. This is just another example,” he added.

Menendez said such disclosure would keep the U.S. electoral process fair and free of “super funded” outside influences.

“This information is very material to how shareholders decide where to invest their money and how to vote in corporate elections. It’s really quite a simple concept. It’s the shareholders’ money and they should know whether the corporate managers who work for them are spending it for political purposes,” he said.

Menendez introduced the Shareholder Protection Act this year to require public companies to disclose all of their political contributions as well as allow a shareholder vote to approve the spending.

“Investors right now have no way of knowing whether executives are spending funds on political causes or campaigns that may be directly adverse to the shareholders’ interest,” he said. “I think that’s common sense legislation, but the truth is under current law the SEC has the power right now to require corporations to disclose their political spending to investors.”