Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Common-Sense Proposal On Corporate Campaign Finance

Two Maryland Dems wrote an Op-Ed in the WaPost that seems to make a lot of sense to me. Since "the corporation" broadly defined, is a creature of "state" creation (rather than federal), states have the right and duty to regulate them. A provision of their proposal would:

"Require that any corporate executives or union leaders seeking to make political campaign expenditures first obtain a majority vote of shareholders or union members approving the specific expenditure, which would guarantee that the move would reflect the will of shareholders or union members, not the whims of the chief executive or union leader."

Presumably they mean campaign expenditures from corporate coffers (as opposed to their own, private expenditures), but the overall gist of their proposal seems to make sense to me. I continue to believe that "the corporation" does in fact, have a right to free speech--as it is a group of so ennobled citizens acting together to achieve commercial ends. That said, this proposal creates conditions under which such speech would actually represent a consensus of those involved, rather than just the will of a CEO or a Board of his/her cronies. Same goes for Unions.

I support this.


Mudge said...

Interesting approach.

Interesting dilemma.

Does each shareholder get an equal vote or is it weighted to each shareholder's holdings? What is the threshold the corporation must cross to have met the requirement for getting shareholders' concurrence? 50% of shareholders? 90%? 100%?

I'd like to think this is a thoughtful approach to ensuring the recent correct ruling by the Supreme Court avoids future challenges, but I can't help, especially given its origins in Maryland, to believe that it is designed to hobble a corporation's ability to voice its preferences in elections without a waiting period that makes their voices time late. In essence, to pass legislation that effectively renders the Supreme Court ruling unuseable.

I know, you are saying, "Well it also applies to Unions". Ahh, yes. As much a sham of balance as the President's bi-partisan approach to health care. Given that most unions are politically homogenous (few self-respecting Republicans would freely join a labor union), and given that, unlike a corporation to its shareholders, a union has well-established infrastructure designed specifically for communicating political issues up and down the chain.

The difference is a corporation is in the business of business. A union is in the business of politics. I say a better approach would be to let the Court's ruling stand, without additional legislation. Unions will be unaffected from their usual business and business can be at the mercy of their shareholders' deciding whether to leave their investments with an entity who either shares or conflicts with their own personal political views.

I've never understood why the Party who so frequently wants to give violators of laws a free pass is the party who wants to pass a new law with every change of the wind.

"The Hammer" said...

Makes perfect sense to me. Both union members and shareholders have precious little power over anything the organization does. Sounds like and old school fix.

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