Biz Groups Fight Push for Political Donation Disclosure

A push for new regulations over corporate political donations is facing opposition from business groups.

Some Democratic politicians, shareholder activists, and pension funds are reportedly petitioning the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require public corporations to disclose to shareholders all of their political donations—but they are facing opposition from the business community.

S.E.C. officials have indicated that they could propose a new disclosure rule by the end of April, according to a recent report by the New York Times. A petition to the S.E.C. asking it to issue the rule has already garnered close to half a million comments, with the vast majority in favor of it, the newspaper reported.

Opponents have reportedly argued that the SEC doesn’t have the authority to issue regulations about political spending. Furthermore, they say that such a disclosure rule would infringe on companies’ free speech rights and damage shareholder value by exposing them to criticism from political opponents.

House Republicans reportedly introduced legislation that would make it illegal for the commission to issue political disclosure regulations applying to companies under its jurisdiction, and several business groups sent a letter to the leaders of Fortune 200 companies, encouraging them to stand against shareholder activists who demand increased political-spending disclosure, according to the New York Times. One group involved in writing the letter is the Business Roundtable, which counts among its members a number of Minnesota executives.

While tax-exempt groups and trade associations reportedly spent hundreds of millions of dollars on political advertising during the 2012 elections, they aren’t required to disclose their donors; evidence suggests that much of the money, however, came from companies, the New York Times reported.

To learn more about the debate, read the full New York Times story here.