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:

Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York

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
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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.
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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