July 13, 2011
WASHINGTON – U.S Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) held a press conference today to introduce The Shareholder Protection Act, which requires a shareholder vote before corporate treasury funds are spent on political campaigns. The Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC declared corporations to be citizens, giving them the right to spend unlimited funds on elections and calling that spending an expression of their free speech rights. This legislation would give shareholders a say in that political spending. Original co-sponsors of the bill include Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Representative Michael Capuano (D-MA) is also introducing an identical bill in the House of Representatives today.
“The Supreme Court made its decision, but Congress can and should take immediate steps to make sure that the new free speech rights created by this decision are extended to everyone,” said Menendez. “A corporation’s money really belongs to the shareholders, not the executives, and those shareholders deserve a voice if their money is going to be spent on politics.”
The Shareholder Protection Act empowers investors to authorize political expenditures on an annual basis. The spending must receive a majority of votes representing all outstanding shares. Political activities covered under the bill include spending affected by the Citizens United decision such as electioneering communications and independent expenditures.
The Corporate Reform Coalition, an association that includes over 70 organizations including Citizen Works, Common Cause, Demos, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG, strongly backs the passage of the bill. They point out that spending by outside groups funded largely by corporate interests on the 2010 elections was more than four times as high as in 2006, the last mid-term cycle, which significantly increases the time and resources candidates need to devote to fundraising.