SEC Stiffs the Public on Disclosure

SEC Stiffs the Public on Disclosure

Today’s clueless government agency is the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Since 2011, more than 640,000 Americans have written to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which regulates the stock market and publicly-owned corporations, to support a proposal that it require companies to report their political spending to stockholders and the public.

The commission responded last week by unceremoniously dumping the proposed rule from its 2014 agenda.

There was no public discussion or vote, indeed the commission gave not even a hint of what drove the decision to abandon an initiative it had put on its radar screen just one year earlier.

But in acting so abruptly, the commission betrayed a stunning and disappointing disregard for the public it’s supposed to serve. It implicitly endorsed the pumping of hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate funds into campaigns, with neither the knowledge nor consent of the shareholders involved, and the use of tax-exempt, non-profit groups to hide the donors behind all that political spending from the public.

The Chamber of Commerce and its allies on the Wall Street Journal editorial board surely will celebrate the SEC’s decision as a victory for free speech, arguing that the push for disclosure is no more than an .effort to push corporate voices out of the public square.

That’s rubbish. No one is trying or even thinking about trying to silence corporations or censor their speech. The SEC was simply being asked to ensure that shareholders, who after all own corporations, know and have a say in when those corporations invest in politics on their behalf.