Citizens United v Federal Election Commission,

The Corporate Electioneering Debate: Should Shareholders Retain an Exclusive Focus on the Right To Know or also seek a Right to Act?

Support is growing to give shareholders the right to vote on corporate political spending.


By Sanford Lewis, Attorney

In response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, which expanded the opportunity of corporate treasuries to be used in electoral fights, diverse responses by the shareholder community have emerged. With company managers beginning to spend even more of “Other People’s Money” in support of their favorite political candidates, shareholders must act to stem the bleeding of our electoral system. But how? Should shareholders converge around their consensus for a Right to Know, or should they also insist that disclosures be accompanied by a shareholder Right to Act, i.e. at least an advisory vote on whether shareholders support or oppose corporate election spending?

Some shareholder coalitions, like the Center for Political Accountability seem to be taking the position disclosure alone is most ripe for action and where we should converge. Corporate resistance to disclosure is apparent, with a campaign by the Chamber of Commerce to oppose the White House Executive Order to require federal contracting corporations to disclose corporate election spending. The Chamber asserts requiring such disclosure is a veiled effort to punish or intimidate companies that donate to conservative causes. But investor proponents of the Executive Order say the disclosure proposed is necessary to ensure that the government contracting process is free of “pay to play” relationships.

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