Monday, March 30, 2015

Teamsters ask: Where is Mary Jo White, and why isn't she making corporations disclose their political contributions?

Dark money is destroying our democracy. Corporations are secretly spending hundreds of millions of dollars to buy political favors. That money comes from ordinary people and institutional investors -- like pension funds -- that invest in those corporations.

Surely investors have a right to know how the corporations they're investing in spend their political dollars.

A month-long ad campaign launched today by investors and public interest organizations aims to persuade the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require publicly traded corporations to disclose their political spending. The campaign features comic-book style posters at heavily traveled Union Station, which is near the SEC. In the ads, illustrations of frightened investors and voters call on SEC Chair Mary Jo White to save them from monsters that have taken shareholder democracy hostage.

The Teamsters are supporting the ad campaign -- for good reason. The union invests more than $100 billion in the capital markets through affiliated pension and benefit funds.

“Corporations are secretly spending millions of dollars on political campaigns, and as investors, the Teamsters are concerned that we cannot evaluate potential conflicts or risks,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is supposed to make sure corporations are open and honest with investors about where their money goes. Five years ago, the Supreme Court opened the floodgates for massive, secret political donations in its Citizens United decisions. Ever since then, investors have been clamoring for corporations to be more open about their political spending.

A proposal to require corporations to disclose their political spending has languished before the SEC. The SEC chair, Mary Jo White,  has received more than 1 million comments supporting the proposal. And yet she hasn't done anything about it.

Rep. Michael Capuano, a Massachusetts Democrat, asked Mary Jo White about that in a recent congressional hearing. According to the New York Times, Capuano,
...observed that shareholders have a right to know how corporate cash is spent, and demanded to know why the S.E.C. has not required disclosure. Ms. White gave the same answer she has given since she became chairwoman in 2013 — essentially, that the agency is too busy with more important issues. 
Since then, however, the S.E.C. has added new issues to its agenda, while neglecting to put political-spending disclosure on its to-do list. The omission is indefensible, because the investors’ need to know will only grow as the level of anonymous giving rises.
You can help pressure the SEC to do the right thing. Follow this link to the Where Is Mary Jo White website and do as it suggests.