Empowering People Over Special Interests
Limit Corporate Special Interest Spending In Politics
Policy Library

Rein In Secret Corporate Influence In Politics

Corporate special interests exert enormous and largely unchecked influence in American elections, particularly since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Although individual states can’t overturn Citizens United, they can take steps to rein in out-of-control corporate political spending, starting in the corporate boardroom. By requiring shareholder approval, public disclosure, and a business rationale for corporate political expenditures, the “Corporate Political Accountability Act” creates increased transparency and accountability.

The National Landscape

Introduced in:

Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania

In The News

“‘The whole thesis of Citizens United is that the companies are just speaking for the shareholders,’ said state Sen. Jamie Raskin, about the bill he sponsored on this issue in the Maryland State Senate. 'If this is going to be anything more than a cynical fiction, then state legislatures need to act to make it real.’”
“In fact, Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s majority opinion in Citizens United essentially invites a shareholder solution. The premise of the decision was that government cannot block corporate political spending because a corporation is simply an association of citizens with free-speech rights, 'an association that has taken on the corporate form,' as Kennedy put it. But if that is true, it follows that corporate managers should not spend citizen-shareholders’ money on political campaigns without their consent.”
“'In the seven years since Citizens United, there has been an unprecedented flow of special interest cash into political campaigns,' said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. . . . 'A [...] rule requiring public companies to disclose how they use their resources for political activities would provide valuable information for shareholders and would be an important step toward increasing the transparency of political spending.'”

Partners

  • Good government advocates
  • Other elected officials

Opposition

  • Corporations that oppose transparency
Call us for real-time support using this library, problem-solving tips, and follow-up from our team of national experts:
The State Line
1-833-
STATES-1

FAQ

How does this help?
This bill empowers people over corporations in the political process by ensuring that when corporations spend money politically, their actions are approved by their shareholders and disclosed. It also creates new transparency on the goal of corporate contributions, by requiring them to disclose the contributions’ business rationale.
Is this high-cost to the state?
There is de minimis cost to the state for this proposal.
What does this require of businesses?
Corporations are already required to regularly report to their shareholders. Expanding shareholder oversight and disclosure of political activity will help ensure efficient and reasonable business decisions with very little or no additional cost. The plan is supported by leading corporate law scholars.
Print

Model Policy

SECTION 1 (TITLE):
This act shall be known as the Corporate Political Accountability Act.

SECTION 2 (PURPOSE):
This act amends the corporations law to require shareholder approval and public disclosure of corporate political expenditures.

SECTION 3 (PROVISIONS):

(a) A corporation or any of its subsidiaries may not use its money or other property in connection with a political contribution or independent expenditure unless the shareholders of the corporation, by the affirmative vote of a majority of all votes entitled to be cast, have:
  • (1) authorized in advance the total amount of money or property that may be used for all political expenditures during a specific fiscal year of the corporation; and
  • (2) directed that the money or property be used for:
  • (i) a specified candidate or candidates;
  • (ii) candidates of a specified political party or parties;
  • (iii) a specified political party or parties;
  • (iv) a specified political committee or committees;
  • (v) a specified entity or entities exempt from taxation under §501(c)(4) or (6) of the internal revenue code; or
  • (vi) a specified question or questions.

(b) Any corporation, either by itself or its subsidiaries, making a contribution or independent expenditure shall at least annually disclose to its shareholders and file with the secretary of state an accounting of the contributions and independent expenditures used for such purposes, including:
  • (1) the date of the contribution or independent expenditure;
  • (2) the amount of the contribution or independent expenditure;
  • (3) the identity of the recipient of the contribution, or if an independent expenditure, the identity of the candidate, referendum, political party, pending legislation, public policy or a government rule or regulation supported or opposed; and
  • (4) the business rationale for each such contribution or independent expenditure.

(c) The secretary of state shall post each corporation's annual disclosure on the website maintained by the secretary of state.

(d) Whenever it appears to the Attorney General that any person has engaged in any act or practice constituting a violation of any provision of this section, the attorney general may bring an action to obtain one or more of the following remedies:
  • (1) a temporary restraining order;
  • (2) a temporary or permanent injunction;
  • (3) a civil penalty not exceeding:
  • (i) three times the amount of a political expenditure made in violation of subsection (a) of this section; or
  • (ii) $5,000 for any other violation of this section;
  • (4) a declaratory judgment;
  • (5) rescission;
  • (6) restitution; and
  • (7) any other appropriate relief.