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Investors urge corporate political spending disclosure

Investors urge corporate political spending disclosure
© Anne Wernikoff

Dozens of investor groups are calling on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to rid politics of so-called dark money from corporations by requiring them to disclose political spending.

“How can we know whether companies in which we invest are making questionable or controversial political expenditures, when they are not mandated to disclose them?” asked Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, which, along with more than 70 other foundations sent a letter to SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC paved the way for corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in politics.

More than 100 major corporations like Microsoft and Wells Fargo voluntarily disclose their political spending to investors, but many more do not.

The investors are calling for more transparency across the board. They want the SEC to require corporate political spending disclosures.

“Shareholders have a right to know where their money is going, especially when it comes to politics,” said Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which joined on the letter. "It’s imperative that the SEC prioritize transparency and require companies to disclose political spending to their shareholders.”

The SEC has considered moving forward with regulations requiring disclosure of corporate political spending, even adding the effort to the agency's 2013 regulatory agenda. Amid pressure from business groups and congressional Republicans, the item was later dropped from the SEC's to-do list.