Bill to Require Shareholder Approval of and Transparency Regarding Political Expenditures

News Brief

By Cydney Posner

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) yesterday introduced a bill designed to address the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United. Senate bill 1360 would amend the Exchange Act to require shareholder authorization before a public company may make certain political expenditures and require transparency regarding Board decisions regarding specific political expenditures. The bill is currently co-sponsored by five Democratic senators, Richard Blumenthal (CT), Sherrod Brown (OH), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Frank Lautenberg (NJ) and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI).Yesterday, the bill was referred to the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. The text of the bill is not yet available from the GPO, but this article in TPM observes that the bill would "mandate prior shareholder approval for annual political expenditure budgets via a vote and require that each expenditure over a certain threshold be approved by a corporation's Board of Directors. The decision would then promptly be disclosed to shareholders and the public." The article questions whether, given the timing (upcoming summer recess) and other pressing concerns (potential debt cataclysm) there would even be enough time or interest to pass the bill so that there is an opportunity to affect next year's election.

The article quotes Senators Menendez and Blumenthal from the press conference about the bill:

"The Supreme Court made its decision, but Congress can and should take immediate steps to make sure that the new free speech rights created by this decision are extended to everyone," said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) at a press conference in Washington today. "A corporation's money really belongs to shareholders - not executives - and those shareholders deserve a voice if their money is going to be spent on politics," he said.

"We can't change Citizens United, it's the law of the land, ... but the disinfectant that sunlight imposes is profoundly powerful, and that's what this legislation will do: shine sunlight on practices and potential abuses," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

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