Yesterday, State Treasurer Ted Wheeler called on the Obama Administration to create new rules that would require corporations to disclose to their shareholders what political donations they make - including to the new largely-anonymous super-PACs.
After the Citizens United ruling opened the flood gates, we've seen a lot of corporate money flowing into these super-PACs; and yet, the very people who own those corporations - their shareholders - are being kept in the dark about where funds are going.
Those shareholders include the State of Oregon, through its investments of retirement funds, school funds, and more.
It certainly seems odd that the taxpayers of Oregon, through their investments, would be funding political campaigns. Disclosure is a critical first step that would allow shareholders to determine whether and if they should be pursuing changes in corporate governance to end some or all political donations made in their name, and with their money.
Wheeler was joined by Janet Cowell, the state treasurer of North Carolina, as well as U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) - as well as the Corporate Reform Coalition, which represents investors with $800 billion in holdings.
"Companies have the ability to spend heavily on political causes and they have the right to do so," Wheeler said. "However, corporations also have the ability to obscure that spending from shareholders, such as Oregon beneficiaries of trust funds... That's wrong."
Of course, critics of this proposal have gone to the old trope of "gee, why not get more disclosure from labor unions?" Wheeler addressed that question in a post on Facebook:
The short answer is this: 1) Labor unions already have significantly higher disclosure requirements than corporations (post Citizens United); 2) we invest in corporations as shareholders, and are part owners and have a right to know - we do not invest in labor unions; 3) that said, we support more, rather than less, information on who is influencing American elections - to what degree - and where they come from.
I am, for one, glad to see Ted Wheeler taking on an activist role representing the interests of Oregonians in addition to strong investment returns.