Trigger Warning: This Article Contains References to ‘Citizens United’ and ‘Dark Money’
Religion & Liberty Online

Trigger Warning: This Article Contains References to ‘Citizens United’ and ‘Dark Money’

Your writer has identified a surefire, two-word mantra guaranteed to elicit shrieks of terror and the rending of garments from the left: “Citizens United,” shorthand for the Supreme Court decision that overturned the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002. The runner-up spot is reserved for the phrase “dark money,” which are trigger words for private donations from individuals and corporations.

Despite all the phony-baloney rationalizations the left hurls at private donations and limits, there’s nothing really to be concerned about. Our Republic will not crumble because of Citizens United or even dark money.

First, however, let’s give the left a turn at the podium. The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment (formerly the Social Investment Forum) is only one group of activist investors getting their knickers in a twist over Citizens United and Dark Money – and they’re joined by “religious” investment activist groups Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility and As You Sow, which, as we know by now, subscribe more to the church of liberal ideology than they do anything remotely cosmological. This from the SIR publication: “Confronting Corporate Money in Politics:”

Since the Citizens United decision, there has been an increase in shareholder proposals on political spending, asking for greater board oversight of campaign spending as well as increased disclosure to investors. A parallel shareholder campaign to encourage more disclosure of direct and indirect lobbying started in 2012. Both efforts contend that investors need information on corporate spending on elections and lobbying so they can make informed decisions and assess related risks. Shareholder resolutions are crucial tools for encouraging US companies to address key environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues. By filing resolutions, which may then proceed to a vote by all shareholders in the company, active shareholders bring important issues to the attention of company management, often winning media attention and educating the public as well. Proponents believe that without strong disclosure rules, shareholders are unable to hold directors and executives accountable when they spend corporate funds on politics.

A key emphasis of both campaign spending and lobbying disclosure initiatives from investors focuses on corporate funding of intermediary non-profit groups, such as trade associations, that may keep their donors secret. According to the Center for Political Accountability (CPA), more mutual funds are voting in support of Confronting Corporate Money in Politics: A Guide for Individual & Institutional Investors resolutions asking portfolio companies to reveal political donations to nonprofits and trade associations. The CPA reports that in 2013, 39 percent of the mutual funds voted in favor of shareholder resolutions calling for companies to reveal their donations, up from 34 percent in 2012….

At a minimum, if you directly own shares in a company, you should pay close attention to the shareholder resolutions that are coming to votes at their annual meetings and be sure to vote your shares. Helpful information on upcoming shareholder resolutions is offered by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, as well as a corporate lobbying chart on Green America’s website. If you are an institutional investor or rely on investment managers to vote your shares, make sure they are voting in accordance with your views. Proxy advisory firms are available to assist with drafting proxy voting guidelines for your institution; they can also vote your institution’s shares in accordance with these guidelines. Additionally, for background on political spending and lobbying expenditures being raised through shareholder resolutions, as well as lists of shareholder resolutions that have been filed for votes at US companies’ upcoming annual meetings, please see the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), As You Sow Foundation and the Sustainable Investments Institute.

All of this is so much piffle when confronted with real-world facts, as noted by The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP), “America’s largest nonprofit dedicated solely to defending First Amendment rights to political speech and assembly.” In a broadcast email, CCP President David Keating turns to actual events rather than crystal-ball prognostications to allay fears of a corporate takeover of the American political system:

‘Scott Walker and Rick Perry have demonstrated once again that while money is an important part of a successful campaign, a candidate’s message, ability to connect with voters, media coverage, and experience matter as well. Ultimately, voters are the ones who get the final say,’ said CCP President David Keating. ‘Walker raised millions of dollars and the Super PAC supporting his candidacy raised millions more, but support for Walker still fell to an asterisk in a recent poll. Restricting money to candidates or independent groups will only lead to fewer choices, not more, and that’s bad for voters and bad for America.’

Republican Presidential candidates Scott Walker and Rick Perry suspended their campaigns, Keating reminds readers, after Walker’s Super Political Action Committee committed $16 million in televised advertisements in three states. For his part, Perry has to refund millions of dollars in contributions.

Despite the millions of dollars in each candidate’s war chest, the well-funded Perry and Walker campaigns failed to gain enough traction to propel either into the primaries. As for the Republican frontrunner who is funding his campaign from a vast personal fortune, Keating notes his opponents should be championing less fundraising restrictions rather than more:

‘Debate sponsors are literally running out of room on stage to fit all of the viable candidates for President, and that’s a good problem to have,’ said David Keating, CCP President. ‘Recent court rulings have made it easier to fund campaigns, and that’s creating more competition. Voters are getting more choices, which in turn means a more robust debate on issues ranging from taxes to foreign policy and everything in between. Bigger fundraising by presidential candidates and Super PACs will lead to better informed voters, which is good for democracy and good for America.’

Just so. It’s time for shareholder activists such as ICCR and AYS to drop the religious charade, and simply admit they’re shilling for leftist causes.

Bruce Edward Walker

has more than 30 years’ writing and editing experience in a variety of publishing areas, including reference books, newspapers, magazines, media relations and corporate speeches. Much of this material involved research on water rights, land use, alternative-technology vehicles and other environmental issues, but Walker has also written extensively on nonscientific subjects, having produced six titles in Wiley Publishing’s CliffsNotes series, including study guides for "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." He has also authored more than 100 critical biographies of authors and musicians for Gale Research's Contemporary Literary Criticism and Contemporary Musicians reference-book series. He was managing editor of The Heartland Institute's InfoTech & Telecom News from 2010-2012. Prior to that, he was manager of communications for the Mackinac Center's Property Rights Network. He also served from 2006-2011 as editor of Michigan Science, a quarterly Mackinac Center publication. Walker has served as an adjunct professor of literature and academic writing at University of Detroit Mercy. For the past five years, he has authored a weekly column for the mid-Michigan Morning Sun newspaper. Walker holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University. He is the father of two daughters and currently lives in Flint, Mich., with his wife Katherine.