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In a little noticed process ongoing over at the Securities and Exchange Commission, a group of Democratic elected officials, economics professors, shareholder activists and pension funds has deluged the Securities and Exchange Commission with demands that it issue a rule to require publicly traded corporations to disclose to shareholders all of their political donations.. S.E.C. staff  have indicated that they could propose a new disclosure rule by the end of April. If they do, all tht data will be on EDGAR.  You don't know about EDGAR?...read on.

A fight is brewing over EDGAR.  You don’t know about EDGAR?  If you are concerned with protecting American democracy from money, you should meet EDGAR.

All companies, foreign and domestic, are required to file financial reporting forms with the SEC electronically through EDGAR, the electronic filing and database service of the agency . Anyone can access and download this information for free, which makes it really, really great for shareholders who want to see what the companies they invest in are really doing with their money. And, for journalists and activists and even ordinary citizens, on EDGAR you can get links to a complete list of all documents filed by public companies, some of which can be very useful in finding out how companies are stealing from their customers and employees.  Because the SEC is the Federal Agency charged with overseeing corporate governance as it relates to the stock market and it has the power the to compel corporations to file reports. EDGAR makes them public.

In a little noticed process ongoing over at the Securities and Exchange Commission, a group of Democratic elected officials, economics professors, shareholder activists and pension funds has deluged the Securities and Exchange Commission with demands that it issue a rule to require publicly traded corporations to disclose to shareholders all of their political donations and post the data on EDGAR. S.E.C. staff  have indicated that they could propose a new disclosure rule by the end of April.  

Business groups are violently opposed to letting shareholders or the public or the SEC  know who they give money to.  Corporate executives and their hired K Street guns are arming themselves for a major battle with the SEC if the agency moves ahead with the rule.  In fact, everyone from the Republican party to the Koch brothers are preparing for a fierce counterattack if the agency’s staff  proposes a rule, setting up the battle lines for a fight that will make the 2012 Republican primary look like kindergarten.

As a start, the Republican  S.E.C. commissioners have taken the unusual step of taking a position already, with Commissioner Gallagher saying in a speech that the commission had been “led astray” by “politically charged issues” . Politically charged may be an understatement. Petition # 4-637requesting the rule has already garnered a half a million comments, orders of magnitude more than any petition or rule in the agency’s history.  And the  with the vast majority of those comments are  in favor of it.  

Now, this doesn’t mean that anything will happen, that stockholders and the American public will be able to see which members of Congress various businesses and their associations buy and sell on any given day.  That is because relatively few petitions result in action by the S.E.C., the commission.  But in a hopeful sign, the SEC staff filed a notice late last year indicating that it was considering recommending a rule. If they do, and the rule is enacted,l all of that data will go on EDGAR where you and I can see it.

The business response to just the thought that the Commission staff might consider the rule has been fierce. House Republicans, in the plainest a show of the total capture of the Republican party by business to date, and the party’s attitude of  screw the American Public because  we represent corporations,  introduced legislation last week to make it illegal for the commission to issue any political disclosure regulations. Earlier this month, the leaders of three of Washington’s most powerful trade associations — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Business Roundtable — issued a rare joint letter to the chief executives of Fortune 200 companies, encouraging them to stand against proxy resolutions and other proposals from shareholder activists demanding more disclosure of political spending. This should make for some interesting stockholders meetings. The national corporate shill known as the Tea Party screamed bloody murder, foaming at the mouth that making corporations tell their stockholders what politicians they pay off with the stockholders money is a violation of corporate free speech.  

In the middle of this battle is Mary Jo White, the newly-confirmed S.E.C. Chairwoman, a former prosecutor, but also a veteran of corporate law practice.  She recently added Andrew J. Ceresney as co-head of the commission’s enforcement arm.  Ceresney served as Ms. White’s aid and a corporate defense lawyer at Debevoise & Plimpton, but like her, was also as a Federal prosecutor in Manhattan.  It remains to be seen if White and her enforcement deputy will be the prosecutor or the corporate defense lawyer.  

Ms. White and her staff are still negotiating with Congress over new rules for banks and brokerages.  If they take on the political disclosure, it will could derail those negotiations and kick off a bloody fight that define her career.  She will be fighting the entire Republican party, virtually every Fortune 500 company, the Koch Brothers, the US Chamber of Commerce and every business lobbying firm, corporate law firm and sleazy business lobbyist in the country.  They will all argue that she doesn’t have the authority to make such a rule and that it is an unconstitutional infringement on corporate free speech – a claim that would be dangerous in front of the current business- owned conservative Supreme Court Justices.

She needs our convincing to take on the battle and our help to win it.
Any person may request that the Commission issue, amend or repeal a rule of general application and comment on an existing petition. The rule requested was filed as Petition File 4-637  and can be found here   Log on to the SEC site and leave your comment.

Then, call or write or email your US Senator and your member of congress asking them to support Petition 4-637.  If you own corporate stock or your 401K has corporate stock, demand your right to know how your money is being spent.

Finally, spread the word.  Facebook, Twitter, email, forums.  Tell people that we have a chance to put a stop to the corporate purchase of our democracy –  and make it public on EDGAR.  

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