| WASHINGTON, Sept 4
WASHINGTON, Sept 4 A group of activists stood
outside of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's
Washington headquarters on Thursday to scold the regulator for
failing to advance a rule requiring companies to disclose their
In an hour-long press conference on the SEC's doorstep, the
Corporate Reform Coalition said that more than a million
comments in support of a corporate political spending disclosure
rule have been sent to the SEC, a number they called "record
Flanked by signs that read "Your money is being invested in
secret. Why is the SEC doing nothing?" the activists accused the
SEC of caving into pressure from Republicans who oppose a
political spending rule and restrictions on campaign spending in
To date, SEC Chair Mary Jo White has not publicly expressed
a view on the issue, though in the past she has said generally
she opposes writing rules to exert "societal pressures on
She has also noted the agency has a full agenda and is
struggling to complete rules called for in the 2010 Dodd-Frank
Wall Street reform act and other legislation.
"The SEC should closely consider a rule like this, rather
than turning its back on investors' interests because of
Republican objections," said Robert Jackson, a Columbia
University law professor who along with other academics first
submitted a public petition for the rule in August 2011.
"The SEC is an independent agency. They are charged with
protecting investors - not politicians."
The effort by the activists dates back to the Supreme
Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, which loosened campaign
finance rules and opened the floodgates to millions of dollars
in political spending by businesses and individuals.
The decision inspired a new wave of politically focused
non-profit groups which are not required to disclose the
identity of their donors.
A network of conservative groups backed by the billionaires
Charles and David Koch, for instance, spent at least $400
million in the 2012 elections. Those "dark money" groups,
organized under section 501(c) of the tax code, differ from
so-called "Super PACs," which can advocate directly for
candidates, but must disclose the identity of their donors.
"As we start to see the wave of dark corporate political
money crest in the 2014 elections, the need for this rule has
really never been more obvious," said Lisa Gilbert, the director
of Public Citizen's Congress Watch, a nonprofit that promotes
Activists at one point had hoped the SEC would take up a
rule, after the agency's former Chair Mary Schapiro included the
item on a list of her topic policy priorities in 2013.
Since then, however, the SEC's current Chair White had the
item removed from the rulemaking agenda.
Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as
both SEC Republican commissioners, have staunchly opposed an
effort to enact a political spending disclosure rule, saying
campaign spending is not material for investors.
The renewed push by the activists and professors for action
on a rule targeting public company spending comes at the same
time that the SEC is also facing a legal battle with Republicans
over "pay-to-play" rules that limit investment advisers from
making campaign contributions.
Last month, Republicans in New York and Tennessee sued the
SEC to block a 2010 rule prohibiting investment advisers from
making campaign contributions in exchange for contracts to
manage public pension funds, saying the rule violates their free
The SEC will face off in court against the Republicans on
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Additional reporting by Andy
Sullivan; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)