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Gary Ackerman Reponds on Citizens United

Posted in Editorials on March 31st, 2011

Congressman Gary Ackerman recently sent me this response to my letter:

Thank you for contacting me to express your concern regarding corporate influence in political campaigns.

The Supreme Court’s recent 5-4 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission strengthens the power of corporate lobbyists and special interests in the political process. This misguided and overreaching decision grants corporations the same First Amendment rights as American citizens to spend unlimited amounts of money in support of or in opposition to candidates for public office and inhibits the ability of average Americans to have an impact on elections.

As a result of the Citizens United decision, American citizens will be forced to compete with corporations who can spend millions of dollars in support or in opposition to candidates for public office without breaking the bank. As a result of the Court’s decision, oil companies can threaten to spend millions to ensure the defeat of Members of Congress for supporting a clean energy bill, or corporations with foreign interests can spend millions in support of a candidate to secure a favorable trade agreement for another country. At a time when the American public increasingly questions the impact of big donors and lobbyists on the legislative process, our democracy certainly does not need to reverse the progress that has been made with regard to campaign finance reform.

In response to the Court’s decision, I introduced the Corporate Politics Transparency Act. Under my bill, publically-traded companies would be required to notify shareholders of all independent expenditures made either for or against a candidate for public office over the last six years if spending exceeds $10,000 in an election, by disclosing the spending in quarterly statements, annual reports, proxy statements, and registration statements. I am also a cosponsor of legislation that would require corporations to seek approval from a majority of shareholders before spending on politics. I firmly believe that if companies want to spend corporate funds to influence elections, their shareholders have a right to know, approve or disapprove of the spending, and have the opportunity to hold corporate management accountable for how their company is spending their money.

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