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OPEN Act Would End Secret Corporate Political Spending
Company shareholders seeking details on secret political spending at their corporations have a friend in Representative Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.)
Cartwright last week introduced the Openness in Political Expenditures Now (OPEN) Act, which would force businesses to reveal information on political expenditures to shareholders. The legislation has 20 co-sponsors, all Democrats.
"We have a responsibility to ensure that our campaigns and elections are transparent, fair, and free from anonymous influence," Cartwright said in a written statement.
In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 ruled in a 5-4 decision that the government couldn't restrict corporate spending on political ads and, according to critics, has allowed companies to flood elections with secret donations.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the court's opinion that the government could implement disclosure requirements.
"The First Amendment protects political speech; and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way," Kennedy wrote. "This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages."
Cartwright's legislation isn't the first bill this year to propose disclosure obligations for corporate political spending. Among the measures is the Disclosure of Information on Spending on Campaigns Leads to Open and Secure Elections (DISCLOSE) Act, which Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) reintroduced in January for the third time.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has opposed the DISCLOSE Act. Thomas Donohue, the Chamber's president and chief executive officer, said in a 2010 written statement that the legislation was "a brazen attempt to tilt the playing field in favor of the incumbent party in this fall's elections, silence constitutionally protected speech, and abridge First Amendment rights."
A Chamber representative didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on Cartwright's bill.