The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Phone: (202) 588-1000

Capuano's Shareholder Protection Act Is Excellent First Step - Let Shareholders, Not CEOs, Decide How Their Money Is Spent on Politics

Statement of Craig Holman, Government Affairs Lobbyist, Public Citizen


A stunning blow of a court ruling deserves a strong response. We
have that in a measure introduced late Wednesday by Rep. Michael
Capuano (D-Mass.) to counter last week's U.S. Supreme Court campaign
finance ruling. In a powerful rejoinder to a court decision that allows
corporations to spend unlimited money on pet political causes and
candidates, Capuano has introduced legislation that requires CEOs to
receive shareholder approval for each and every corporate political
expenditure. Public Citizen enthusiastically supports Capuano's
"Shareholder Protection Act" and applauds his initiative in working to
rein in the damage the court is causing by unleashing unlimited
corporate spending in politics.

Last week, the court reversed 100 years of political tradition and
ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that
corporations are "persons" under the First Amendment, entitled to spend
unlimited amounts of corporate treasury funds to support or attack
candidates. Never mind that corporations are not people, do not vote
and were never envisioned by the Founding Fathers as "persons" under
the Constitution. Five justices have taken it upon themselves to give
corporations the same constitutional rights given to human beings.

The courts have held that one of those rights is to spend unlimited
amounts of your own money in politics. The problem with granting this
right to corporations is that the CEOs can spend unlimited amounts of
other people's money - money from shareholders. This means money from
the 401(k) retirement accounts of millions of Americans.

Capuano's legislation requires that these CEOs fully inform
shareholders of candidates and causes to be supported or opposed, and
receive shareholder approval for any political expenditure. All
shareholders would get a chance to vote; board members and retirement
fund managers could not simply vote secretly on their behalf.

The Shareholder Protection Act will not solve all the problems of
unlimited corporate political spending, but it could go a long way
toward reducing the damage to our democracy inflicted by the court. We
need other tools from the toolbox, though, including public financing
of elections and, ultimately, a constitutional amendment clarifying
that for-profit corporations are not entitled to the speech protections
afforded under the First Amendment.

Note: On the day the Citizens United decision was announced, Public
Citizen launched a petition drive for a constitutional amendment to
counter the ruling. Already, more than 23,000 people have signed. See
for more details. In addition, Public Citizen attorney Scott Nelson was
part of the legal team representing former and current lawmakers in the
Citizens United case.

READ Public Citizen president Robert Weissman's statement.

Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people - not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country.

(202) 588-1000