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Survey: Wide Support for More Disclosure by Corporate Political Donors
From shareholder proposals on disclosure to "influence tracker" widgets, mechanisms for tracing the flow of corporate spending in politics have popped up left and right this presidential election year.
So what if the names of CEOs were to appear in political advertisements that their companies funded?
It's an idea many are in favor of, according to a new survey conducted by the Corporate Reform Coalition, and analyzed by the policy and advocacy center Demos: "Almost three in four Americans (74 percent) favor a requirement that the name of the company and its CEO must appear in ads paid for by corporate political money, and 45 percent strongly favor that requirement."
With just days to go before Barack Obama and Mitt Romney face off at the polls, the survey of about 800 Democrats, Republicans and independents takes stock of attitudes toward corporate political spending and disclosure. Survey takers gave a big thumbs down to corporate dollars in the political arena, and appear to strongly support a number of transparency measures.
For starters, 83 percent of respondents "believe that corporations and corporate CEOs have too much political power and influence," according to the analysis by Demos counsel Liz Kennedy. Additionally, she writes:
Eight out of 10 Americans agree that corporate political spending has made federal politics more negative (83%) and that it makes Congress more corrupt (84%). The same is true at the state level, where nearly 8 out of 10 Americans agree that corporate political spending makes state politics more negative (80%) and more corrupt (78%).
As for curbing corporate influence on politics, respondents looked favorably on shareholder approval for political spending out of company coffers, as well as speedy disclosures of such spending.
"By huge margins Americans confirm that if corporations are going to engage in political spending, that spending must be controlled by shareholders and accountable to the public," according to the report.
Eighty percent of respondents agreed that "corporations should only spend money on political campaigns if they get approval from their shareholders first," the analysis states. "Support for that proposition was at 78 percent among Republicans surveyed, and did not fall below 76 percent among all political subgroups."
Additionally, 81 percent of respondents "believe that corporations should only spend money on political campaigns if they disclose their spending immediately," according to the report. That goes for 77 percent of Republicans and 91 percent of liberals polled on this question.
An even higher percentage of respondents said disclosure would help keep corporations in check. "Eighty-six percent of Americans agree that prompt disclosure of political spending would help voters, customers, and shareholders hold companies accountable for political behavior," the survey states. "Support for that statement ranged from 83 percent to 92 percent across all political subgroups."
The survey also asked about political spending through third parties: 77 percent of respondents "favor a specific requirement that companies must publicly disclose their political expenditures to groups that spend money on politics like the Chamber of Commerce," according to the report. Some 45 percent said they "very strongly in favor" of such a measure, while 17 percent of those polled oppose the idea altogether.
Catherine Dunn can be contacted at email@example.com.