SEC may take on campaign transparency

Eyeglasses with newspaper and coffee cup

From Raw Story comes this interesting tidbit of information:

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is considering a rule that could stem the tide of shadowy corporate money into political advocacy groups, plugging a hole in campaign finance law blown open by the Supreme Court’s controversial decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

The rule, supported by a broad coalition of advocacy groups, pension funds, academics and more than 70 members of Congress, surprisingly hinges upon a portion of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, in which Justice Anthony Kennedy says that while the government cannot ban speech ahead of elections based upon corporate identity, it does have a compelling interest in protecting shareholders from unknowingly funding political speech whenever it may occur.

Raw Story and The New York Times indicate Republicans are standing against this disclosure rule, including at least one Republican Commissioner of the SEC.

This is an interesting debate, for two reasons: First, as noted above, should shareholders be able to know what their companies are funding politically? Second, and perhaps more importantly, shouldn’t transparency occur across the board?

In its article, the Times claims “the biggest and best-financed groups have tended to back Republicans,” citing money spent in 2012. However, begs to differ, looking at the larger picture – from 1989 to 2012, 16 of the top 22 donors have given more to Democrats than Republicans, with only one GOP-biased donor in that group. And most of those have been unions.

Regardless of who gives how much to what party or candidate, however, transparency should be a bipartisan issue. Rather than focus on Wall Street or corporations, activists on both sides should promote transparency for all. Here is one idea on how such transparency may look:

All candidates for Congress, President and Vice President (as well as all incumbents) will have any and all donations posted on their official and campaign websites on the main page. Each campaign office and each official office shall also have this list. The list will include, from left to right:

Name(s) of donor(s)

Amount given

Related industry of donor

Interest group ratings [Note: for the candidate for office] related to industries of donor

This will all be done within 24 hours of receipt.

Whatever transparency rule is issued by the SEC, the Commission would be wise to consider transparency for all donors, not just those certain constituencies or politicians dislike.