A Misleading Attack on Corporate Disclosure of Political Donations

TheWall Street Journal ran a disingenuous and misleading opinion piece on Sunday evening titled "The Corporate Disclosure Assault," arguing that “[u]nions and liberal activists are using proxy rules to attack business political speech.” The piece—exactly like the undisclosed corporate money it’s pandering to—doesn’t even have an author listed. And its main point is that shareholders seeking transparency over the ways their money is spent on politics are committing “an abuse of the proxy process” by voting for increased disclosure.

According to the article’s mystery author, calling for shareholder disclosure of corporate political expenditures is not “the effort of public-spirited believers in shareholder rights and transparency.” No, these are “unions, left-wing activists, and their factotums” who disagree with Citizens United, who allegedly want to “expose and then vilify companies that disagree with them.” The author claims to have uncovered a left-wing conspiracy, a “broad network of unions, green investment funds, public pensions and ideological bucket shops.” And what is the goal of this nefarious campaign? “The specific target is to get companies to publicly disclose what they spend on politics.”

This defense of secret political spending hardly engages with the arguments that disclosure would serve important market functions and help investors make more informed investment decisions. Nor does it mention that disclosure serves the function of our democracy by "provid[ing] the electorate with information" or "help[ing] voters make informed choices in the political marketplace"—a compelling and legitimate state interest recognized even by the conservative majority in Citizens United.

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