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The SEC thinks about doing the right thing

In this morning’s Times we learn that the SEC is actually considering a petition that seeks a rule requiring the corporations to tell their owners (you know, the stockholders) which politicians they are bribing and which socially destructive causes they are financing. (Oddly enough, they are never shy about letting everyone know if they spend their money on something they can at least pretend is a worthy cause).

A loose coalition of Democratic elected officials, shareholder activists and pension funds has flooded the Securities and Exchange Commission with calls to require publicly traded corporations to disclose to shareholders all of their political donations, a move that could transform the growing world of secret campaign spending.

S.E.C. officials have indicated that they could propose a new disclosure rule by the end of April, setting up a major battle with business groups that oppose the proposal and are preparing for a fierce counterattack if the agency’s staff moves ahead. Two S.E.C. commissioners have taken the unusual step of weighing in already, with Daniel Gallagher, a Republican, saying in a speech that the commission had been “led astray” by “politically charged issues.”


Naturally, the folks who get the lions share of the bribes, and, not incidentally, support the unworthy causes their corporate masters tend to fund, have rushed to the ramparts.

In response to the growing pressure, House Republicans introduced legislation last Thursday that would make it illegal for the commission to issue any political disclosure regulations applying to companies under its jurisdiction. Earlier this month, the leaders of three of Washington’s most powerful trade associations — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Business Roundtable — issued a rare joint letter to the chief executives of Fortune 200 companies, encouraging them to stand against proxy resolutions and other proposals from shareholder activists demanding more disclosure of political spending.


I do grow old. I remember a time when politicians felt the need to preserve a facade; to preserve what I believe the Nixon folks called “plausible deniability”, but those days are obviously past. They truly know no shame, and have no fear of letting the world know that they have been well and truly purchased.

But truly, these Republicans should really not have bothered, unless the point is merely to curry favor with their puppet masters. There was, perhaps, a time when the SEC might have seriously considered enacting such a rule, but those days are also long since past. Who knows, there may be folks in the lower echelons of that agency who would like to adopt such a rule, as the article states, but even they must know that this is all just kabuki. The SEC is now run by and for the corporations it regulates. The higher ups, who make the final decisions, are on a merry go round, making civil service salaries now so they can go back from whence they came, with salaries enhanced and more, to make up for those pauper’s wages and reward them for a job well done. My money is on them to come through for the corporations they have learned to serve, whatever the lower down folks may propose.