Menendez Slams Senate GOP for Denying Vote on Corporate Political Spending Amendment

Menendez Slams Senate GOP for Denying Vote on Corporate Political Spending Amendment

Measure would allow the SEC to move forward with rules requiring publicly-traded companies to inform shareholders of election and political spending

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a Senior Member of the Senate Banking Committee, submitted this statement to the record today after Republican Senate leaders blocked consideration of his amendment, #3532, to the 2019 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, which would restore the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)’s ability to adopt rules requiring publicly-traded companies to disclose their political spending to shareholders:

"M. President, I rise today because Senate Republicans have blocked a vote on my amendment, #3532.  My amendment is really quite simple.  It would have struck language in the underlying bill that prohibits the Securities and Exchange Commission from requiring corporations to tell their investors and the public how they spend money in politics.

 "It’s been eight years since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision; a decision which gave corporations the right to spend unlimited, unchecked, and more often than not – undisclosed – money on our elections. For eight long years, more and more money has flowed from corporate coffers into campaign ads and political expenditures, and Republicans have defended the dark money poisoning our politics every step of the way. 

 "In the 2016 elections alone, outside groups spent more than $1.4 billion dollars, much of it funneled through trade associations and non-profits, and much of it undisclosed to the public.

 "This is elementary – shareholders don’t invest in political agendas or candidates – they invest in companies, and they deserve to know whether the corporate executives of those companies are using their money to grow their businesses or to advance political outcomes that are contrary to investors’ values. With no requirement to disclose how this money is being spent, shareholders and the public are left in the dark with no way to know if corporations are spending their money to defund Social Security and Medicare, keep the cost of prescription drugs high, dismantle environmental protections, undermine education programs, or eviscerate rules on Wall Street.

 "This information is material to how shareholders decide to invest their money and vote in corporate elections.  Even setting aside the case for this disclosure as a matter of corporate governance and investor protection, this issue gets to the very core of our democracy. Corporations can secretly funnel money to organizations that have no requirement to report on their contributions, and then the American public is left with no way of knowing who is advancing what causes. And all of this secret cash and dark money undermines the ability of the American people to hold their government accountable. 

 "Disclosing corporate spending in our elections is the least we can do to help ensure that voters and not dollars set the agenda in Washington. And that’s what Americans want.  The Securities and Exchange Commission has received a record 1.2 million comments from investors and members of the public in support of requiring corporations to disclose how they spend money in politics. Moreover, a May 2018 University of Maryland study found that Americans, both liberal and conservative, overwhelmingly support a Constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United.  Seventy-five percent of those surveyed support such an amendment.  And even more, 88 percent of those surveyed, want to reduce the outsized influence of corporations in our politics.

 "But Republicans in the Senate wouldn’t even let us have a vote on this amendment. What’s behind their refusal? After passing trillion-dollar tax cuts for big corporations, Republicans are hoping some of that money trickles down into their re-election efforts. The Republican Congress and this President depend upon this influence being kept in the shadows.  It makes you wonder, what are they hiding?  What would happen if the American people knew who was really funding their agenda?  

 "That’s why they slipped this language into a must-pass spending bill a few years ago, and why they are holding onto it with all of their might today.  As long as the American people are kept in the dark, Republicans are better able to hold onto power. That’s also why just two weeks ago, President Trump’s Treasury Department announced that it would no longer certain non-profit organizations that engage in political activity to disclose their donors to the IRS. 

 "They want to make it easier for big corporations, billionaires, special interests – and even illegal foreign money – to influence our elections. They don’t want the American people to know that behind every bill, amendment, and executive order is a corporate benefactor.  A corporate benefactor that knows so long as the money keeps flowing, there’s someone in Congress to do their bidding.

 "They are so afraid of what these disclosures will reveal that they would not even allow the Senate to vote on my amendment, which does not nothing more than restore the status quo allowing the SEC to move forward with a rulemaking requiring corporations to disclose how they spend money in politics.

 "This fight is not over. We must remain steadfast in our commitment to shining a light on dark money in our politics. I will continue pushing to end Republicans’ toxic prohibition on the SEC, which only serves to silence the voices of hardworking American families in favor of amplifying the speech and magnifying the influence of corporations. In our democracy, the size of your wallet should not determine the power of your voice.  I urge my colleagues to listen to the American people who have been loud and clear – they want disclosure, they want to reduce corporate influence in our politics, and they want this government to work for them."