Will Congress help shareholders see corporations’ election spending?

Three new bills introduced in Congress offer a modest counterbalance to the wide-open corporate spending in election campaigns enabled by the Supreme Court’s recent ruling.

The Corporate Politics Transparency Act, (H.R. 4630),  introduced into the House of Representatives by Gary Ackerman (D-New York) amends securities laws to “require that registration statements, quarterly and annual reports, and proxy solicitations of public companies include a disclosure to shareholders of any expenditure made by that company in support of or in opposition to any candidate for Federal, State, or local public office.”

Another bill just introduced goes a bit further. The Fairness in Corporate Campaign Spending Act of 2010, (H.R. 4644) “prohibits corporations from spending or giving money to run political ads without the prior approval of shareholders.” It’s sponsored by Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Penn.)

In the Senate,  the Citizens Right to Know Act of 2010, (S.3004) was introduced early in February by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). This bill “requires notification to and prior approval by shareholders of certain political expenditures by publicly traded companies, and for other purposes.”

The Supreme Court’s decision makes it nearly impossible to stop corporations from flooding election campaigns with money to advocate for their own interests, but at least these bills could  help shareholders know  how their investments are being used, and where corporate leadership stands on issues and candidates.