A new campaign is beginning in Washington targeting the Securities and Exchange Commission over campaign finance.
Yes, that’s the SEC — not the FEC (the Federal Election Commission).
The SEC has been asked to require publicly traded companies to disclose their contributions to nonprofits, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Crossroads GPS and Priorities USA, which have spent millions of dollars on political ads without disclosing their donors.
The campaign includes ads in Washington’s subway system and trading cards with the pictures of the five SEC commissioners. The coalition of public officials and others is campaigning to pressure the SEC into enacting the disclose rule.
“This effort is going to be in front of hundreds of thousands of people, and the SEC commissioners are going to feel the pressure,” said New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, founder of the Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending. “We may not see new rules implemented in 2012, but if we can get the SEC to signal that disclosure is on the way, big corporate donors will be much more likely to restrain their spending in the lead up to November.”
The Supreme Court in its 2010 Citizens United decision ended restrictions on corporate and union independent spending on political ads. Republican-leaning nonprofits that do not disclose their donors have spent $46 million so far for the 2012 elections, while those backing Democrats have spent $9 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group. A separate coalition of more than 70 groups has petitioned the SEC to enact such a disclosure rule.
“This rule is in line with SEC responsibilities to investors, and the American public demands it,” said co-chairwoman Lisa Gilbert, acting director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, a Washington-based advocacy group.
SEC Commissioner Luis Aguilar has said he would support such a rule, and the agency has received more than 250,000 comments backing a disclosure requirement.