Thursday, April 25, 2013
Unions and activists are trying to get the Securities And Exchange Commission to mandate disclosure of campaign contributions by businesses. That is OK. The First Amendment doesn't guarantee anonymity. However, in fairness, unions, activists and interest groups of all kinds should disclose donations promptly as well. Everyone should be transparent then let voters decide who might be buying influence. Unfortunately, the SEC cannot mandate total disclosure. It can only order public companies to reveal in their annual reports or proxies what they have given to political action groups. Thus, the union request is unfair, and the SEC should turn it down. There is a good chance the commission won't, however, because there has been a grass roots campaign to support the change. If the SEC forces disclosure, it will become an element in protecting corporate reputation. Companies will have to guard their flanks during election season from those who would bash any economic entity for speaking out. At the moment, it doesn't look like US businesses have mobilized to defeat the effort, and one wonders why.