Raskin Bill Would Curtail Impact of Citizens United Decision

    U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) has introduced a bill to limit the influence of corporate money in political campaigns.

    Raskin has introduced the Shareholders United Act, which would prevent corporate expenditures for political campaigns unless the corporation has established a process for determining the political will of its majority shareholders. If a corporation has no such process or is unable to assess the “majority will” of shareholders because the majority of shares are owned by entities that are prohibited from registering a political preference – such as governments, pension and mutual funds, universities, charities, or foundations – then the corporation will be prohibited from using its resources on political campaigns.

    The bill is a response to the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which unleashed corporate cash into the political system.

    Raskin pointed out that the majority of shares of Fortune 500 companies are actually owned by institutional investors prevented from engaging in partisan political activity because of federal or local law, their tax status, contract, or fiduciary duty.

    “If most company shares are owned by entities forbidden to be involved in politics, the CEO literally has no one to speak for,” he said. “Money should not be taken from shareholders and their owners to make political statements they are prevented by law from making.”

    Raskin said that even where shareholders have a right to speak on political campaigns, no one should be able to use their money without their explicit involvement and consent.

    “Shareholders should not be kept in the dark about political expenditures in their name,” said Raskin. “Shareholders United will make certain that corporations only become political actors if majority shareholders want them to.”

    Unlike campaign contributions made by individuals, which are capped by law and require public disclosure, political expenditures by corporations The Shareholders United Act has nine cosponsors: Reps. Harley Rouda (D-Calif.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Darren Soto (D-Fla.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and Gil Cisneros (D-Calif.). The legislation has also earned the support of good government groups such as People for the American Way and End Citizens United.

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.