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SACRAMENTO, Calif., June 14 — Groups concerned about the influence of corporate money in politics held a press conference today in support of the Shareholder Protection Act by Assemblymember Pedro Nava. The bill would require corporations to let their shareholders opt out of having their money spent on political campaigns.
“PG&E just spent $47 million dollars on a losing ballot campaign, and shareholders are stuck with the bill, even if they didn’t agree with the decision to spend the cash,” said Pedro Morillas, CALPIRG Consumer Advocate. “It’s scary to think that $47 million could be a drop in the bucket compared to what’s coming.”
Corporate campaign spending used to be limited to state races and ballot measures. Previously, in federal elections, corporations needed to solicit funds from shareholders, employees and board members, and use that money to play in elections. Now, thanks to the January U.S. Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. FEC, corporations have the same freedom to spend treasury funds on federal races as well. This will translate into even more shareholder money spent on political campaigns and candidates that they might disagree with.
“The Supreme Court tilted the playing field even more in the favor of corporations,” added Morillas.
In 2008 $5.3 billion was spent on the campaigns for Congress and the Presidency, compared with $2.7 billion on every state, local, and ballot campaign in the country.
“The $5.3 billion spent on federal races last time out will be blown away,” said Pedro Morillas. “Corporations are embracing their newfound right to shower money on elections – just look at the who’s who list of corporate trade groups opposing our state bill.”
CALPIRG and Assemblymember Pedro Nava announced their bill, the Shareholder Protection Act (AB 919), to give shareholders the ability to influence some of these spending decisions and protect their investments.
The Shareholder Protection Act does two things:
1) It requires corporations to tell their shareholders how much of their money is going towards playing politics.
2) If a shareholder doesn't want to join in, then their money won't be used for political ads, and they can get their portion back in the form of a dividend.
“If a corporation wants to spend money influencing politics, the decision to spend that money should at least be based on input from the shareholders, rather than just the whims of the CEO,” concluded Morillas.
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