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“The Kleptocrats Are At It Again”: Congressional Radicals Anxious To Stop Disclosure Of Corporate Money In Elections

Perhaps I’ve been too harsh on congressional Republicans.

I had assumed that their vitriolic attacks on even the meekest of proposals to restrict the tsunami of secret corporate cash slamming into our elections stemmed from a hallucinogenic mix of partisan self-interest and Koch-induced plutocratic ideology. But I’ve since learned that they might simply need medical help.

Take Scott Garrett, a New Jersey Republican who recently came unglued at a public hearing before the House Financial Services Committee. Mary Jo White, chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, had been summoned by GOP inquisitors to answer to a modest, straightforward proposal involving the disclosure of corporate political donations. Actually, it is not her proposal, but a citizen petition — signed by a record half-million Americans — asking the SEC to require that corporate executives reveal to shareholders how their money is being spent in elections.

That’s entirely reasonable — unless, like Garrett, you’ve got the political temperament of a live grenade. He exploded on White, demanding in a bullying manner that she “refuse to be bullied by these outside radical groups” who submitted the petition. He insisted that she declare, then and there, that the agency would not even consider the citizens’ proposal.

Yes, Garrett is a corporate toady, but that can’t explain his foam-at-the-mouth hissy fit. Then I learned about a new medical study that offers a clue about the source of such behavior. It seems that conflicts at work cause some people’s brains to release hormones that prompt them to fly into a rage and even threaten others. The researchers found out that corrosive hormones can make blood platelets stickier, causing the brain to go “boom,” creating angry outbursts of stupidity.

So maybe Scott’s problem is not merely toadyism, but the terrible tragedy of sticky platelets syndrome.

Still, one wonders: What did Rep. Garrett mean when he squawked about “outside radical groups” daring to submit that disclosure petition to the SEC? How radical is it to seek restraints on corporate chieftains who are pouring unlimited (and untold) amounts of their shareholders’ money into our elections?

The great majority of Americans — including rank-and-file Republicans — agree that, at the very least, the shareholders who own the corporation have a right to be told how much of their money is being spent on behalf of which candidates. This explains why more than 500,000 citizens have petitioned the SEC to require disclosure.

Who, you might wonder, exactly are these scary citizens, considered such a threat to corporate power that a congresscritter is tarring them publicly as radical outsiders? They’re professors from leading law schools, state and national elected officials, pension fund directors, public interest advocates and corporate shareholders. Not exactly outsiders, much less radicals.

And that’s what makes them so dangerous to the autocratic elites who run corporations as their own fiefdoms. Top executives want no accountability for the hundreds of millions of shareholder dollars they’re spending to elect corporate lickspittles like Garrett, so they feel it necessary to demonize the citizenry itself. Don’t question us, they demand, just trust us.

Uh … no. Far from earning trust, they’ve already wrecked our economy and betrayed our nation’s egalitarian ideals — while feathering their own plutocratic nests. Now they want free rein to pervert America’s democratic process with clandestine election campaigns secretly financed with other people’s money.

NO! These kleptocrats are the real radicals. It’s time to stop them, not only by disclosing their thievery, but ultimately by outlawing it — and retuning elections to the people. To join the effort, contact Public Citizen at http://www.citizen.org.

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, May 29, 2013

May 30, 2013 Posted by | Corporations, Elections | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Watchdog Or Lapdog”: Big Corporations And Wall Street Still Hiding CEO Pay Ratios

Corporations are obligated to disclose how much their CEOs earn compared to the average worker, thanks to Section 953(b) of the financial reforms of 2010 known as Dodd-Frank.

However, three years after that bill became law, some of the nation’s largest corporations are battling regulators to prevent such disclosure, according to Bloomberg.

“The fact that corporate executives wouldn’t want to display the number speaks volumes,” said Phil Angelides, who was the chairman of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which investigated the collapse that led to the Great Recession.

Angelides says that the attempt to block this provision is just one example of the “street-by-street, block-by-block fight” that corporations and Wall Street are waging against implementation of the modest reform package that passed only after it was weakened to garner Republican support in the Senate.

Groups including the American Insurance Association, Business Roundtable, National Investor Relations Institute, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have petitioned the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), making the argument that “it is unclear how the pay ratio disclosure will be material for the reasonable investor when making investment decisions.” They claim that calculating such ratios is time consuming and almost impossible for multinational corporations.

Without obligated disclosure, there’s no clear way to assess CEO-to-worker ratio. In 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported large-company CEO compensation was 319 times the median worker’s pay. Currently the average multiple of CEOs to a typical worker is 204 — up 20 percent since 2009, according to statistics collected from workers’ compensation estimates.

Bloomberg‘s Elliot Blair Smith and Phil Kuntz point to Ron Johnson, the recently ousted CEO of J.C. Penney, who earned a whopping 1,795 times what a typical $8.30-an-hour JCP salesperson took home.

The AFL-CIO has been attempting to counter the corporate lobbying with an effort to make the SEC put in place what is already law.

“The impact of high levels of CEO pay on employee morale is particularly important in today’s weak economy, when workers are being asked to do more for less,” suggests an online petition it is circulating to pass on to the government regulators.

“Estimates by academics and trade-union groups put the number at 20-to-1 in the 1950s, rising to 42-to-1 in 1980 and 120-to-1 by 2000,” Smith and Kuntz write.

Even if corporations are forced to disclose how much their top executive is paid, there are a variety of ways for them to cloak compensation.

Still the Campaign for America’s future calls enforcing Section 953(b) a crucial test for new SEC chair Mary Jo White to find out if she’ll be a “watchdog or a lap dog for Wall Street.”

 

By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, May 2, 2013

May 3, 2013 Posted by | Corporations | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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