Maryland First to Address Citizens United

With the House controlled by Republicans, we are not likely to see positive action to control or at least require disclosure of political spending by corporations. However, states may be jumping in to take some action.

Under a new Maryland law, which takes effect December 1, 2011, a corporation that spends $10,000 or more on independent expenditures or electioneering communications in Maryland must disclose such spending to its shareowners, either through a shareowner communication or by placing the information on the corporation’s website. Similar legislation has been proposed in several other states, including California, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and New York. See November 11, 2011, advisory from Allen & Overy.

This is a very limited reform to address the Citizens United decision, not even requiring Maryland companies to disclose spending in other states or the District of Columbia. At least it is a step in the right direction, even if a very small one.

See also Calpers Approves Policy on Corporate Political Contributions, Bloomburg BusinessWeek. I would go a step further than CalPERS and ask for a say-on-political contributions by shareowners.

Of course, there would be much less need for a say on anything by shareowners if we had a real say on who gets nominated and elected to the board. See the model proxy assess proposal from the USPX.

Much more coverage of political spending by Robert Kropp at Sustainability Investment, Corporate Political Spending: More Disclosure but a Billion Dollars Spent in 2010, November 14, 2011 and Why Dylan Ratigan’s “Get Money Out” Campaign Gets it Right, Huffington Post, 11/16/2011.


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