Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg (D-Nassau County) recently sponsored a bill that would rein in unlimited corporate spending by independent groups in elections under the Citizens United Supreme Court decision (A.10661). This legislation would require any for-profit corporation registered or doing business in New York State to obtain approval from its shareholders before any political contributions or expenditures are made on its behalf. Additionally, this legislation would require corporations to publicly disclose how they are working to influence political campaigns.
“When we turn on our televisions, we are inundated by political ads that are often funded secretly by wealthy interests,” said Assemblyman Weisenberg. “We have the right to know who is influencing elections, and shareholders should be required to give their consent before corporations use their vast resources to influence public opinion.”
In the first six months of 2012, SuperPACs spent $165 million nationwide to influence public opinion in a variety of federal, state and local elections. Current law does not require disclosure of these expenditures, nor does it require shareholder approval.
The bill Weisenberg sponsored would require corporations who do business in New York State to obtain approval from shareholders before engaging in political activities, which include political contributions, establishing political action committees or making payments to other entities for political purposes. Additionally, corporations would be required to disclose such expenditures to the secretary of state each quarter and also 10 days prior to any primary or general election where money is spent. The secretary of state would then be required to post those recorded expenditures on its website.
“The influence of these big corporations on candidates and hot-button issues must stop,” said Assemblyman Weisenberg. “Democracy is intended to work for the people – not the corporations. I will continue fighting to make sure corporate spending on campaigns is reined in and transparent so that voters know where the money is going.”