Risk & Compliance

GOP Acts to Block Political Disclosure Rule

A provision slipped into the $1.1 trillion spending bill would bar the SEC from forcing public companies to disclose their campaign contributions.
Katie Kuehner-HebertDecember 16, 2015

The $1.1 trillion bill to fund the U.S. government now includes a provision barring the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission from working on a rule that would force public companies to disclose their political donations.

Republicans slipped the measure into a version of the spending bill released Wednesday, infuriating Democrats and others who have repeatedly urged the SEC to approve a regulation on political giving.

The House plans to approve stopgap legislation Wednesday that funds the government through Dec. 22 to give Congress time to consider the full-year measure.

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Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House’s second-ranking Democrat, said the SEC measure probably won’t derail the spending legislation. “I don’t think it’s going to be a poison pill, but it’s something we didn’t like,” he told Bloomberg. “There are going to be things both sides don’t like.”

Public companies are required to report donations made through political action committees, but they don’t have to report contributions to third parties, including industry groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that fund ads for and against candidates.

Public Citizen and other groups have been pressuring the SEC to enact a political donation disclosure rule for years. But SEC Chair Mary Jo White, who pulled discussion of such a rule from the commission’s agenda in 2013, has said that some rules the regulator was being pushed to adopt “seem more directed at exerting societal pressure on companies to change behavior, rather than to disclose financial information that primarily informs investment decisions.”

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote a letter to White in June calling her tenure “extremely disappointing,” pointing to inaction on the political spending rules as one of her failures.

Rep. Steve Israel, a New York Democrat who chairs his party’s congressional campaign committee, said it was “unclear” whether Democrats can use leverage to get the SEC provision out of the spending bill before a Friday vote.