Publicly Traded Companies Also Required to Disclose Political Activity
Bills Introduced in Wake of High Court Decision Restricting Public’s Right to Know
(TRENTON) – Assembly Democrat Tim Eustace on Monday announced he’s introduced legislation to require corporations that receive financial help from New Jersey taxpayers or are publicly traded in the state to publicly detail their political contributions and expenditures.
The bills – stemming from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision rejecting bipartisan efforts to restrict campaign spending by corporations – would:
· Require corporations applying for or receiving an economic development subsidy of $25,000 or more from a state agency to provide a list of every expenditure greater than $10,000 made by the corporation or its parent to support or oppose a candidacy for elective public office in or from this state, or to support or oppose a public question in this state. (A-3343)
· Require disclosure of information about contributions and expenditures for candidates for elective public office or for public questions by publicly traded corporations doing business in state. (A-3344).
“If a corporation is receiving financial help from New Jersey taxpayers, then the taxpayers deserve to know if that corporation is involving itself politics and whom and what it supports,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “The same goes for shareholders. Corporations have a right to immerse themselves in politics, but they should definitely not be allowed to do so secretly if they’re receiving state taxpayer help. If a corporation is taking assistance from hard-working New Jersey taxpayers, then those taxpayers have a right to know.”
Eustace noted that Justice Stevens, in his dissent to the Supreme Court decision, called the ruling “a radical change” and stated, “In the context of election to public office, the distinction between corporate and human speakers is significant.”
“These are reasonable and responsible bills that do not infringe upon any definition of free speech rights,” Eustace said. “Instead, they strengthen the right of the public and shareholders to know how their money is being spent. That’s always a good thing.”
The Assemblyman also noted that under current law, a publicly traded corporation can make political contributions and expenditures, but is not required to provide easily-accessible details about those contributions and expenditures to its shareholders.
“This is quite simple, really – publicly traded corporations doing business in this state should have to publicly disclose the purposes for which their money is being used to influence support for or opposition against candidates and public questions,” Eustace said.
New Jersey grants numerous tax incentives, grants and other subsidies to businesses, and collects economic development data from those businesses on how the money is being spent. Under the Eustace bill, political contributions would be among the data required for submission to the state agency granting the subsidy
“Given the Supreme Court’s ruling, the taxpayers of this state deserve transparency when it comes to campaign contributions made by businesses receiving economic development subsidies by state agencies,” Eustace said. “Increased transparency when it comes to corporate political activity has never been more important, so let’s shine a light as much as possible on corporate political donations.”