Last month’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case has given corporate management considerable latitude to use corporate funds in political campaigns. Many are concerned that corporate political spending often influences public policy in ways that harm the public interest. So the individual investor advocacy organization ShareOwners.org has launched a campaign to reduce the potentially harmful effects of corporate money on politics. ShareOwners.org is focusing on disclosure of political spending, and using investors’ voice to restrain management abuse of this power — details in the ShareOwners.org press release and this SocialFunds.com article.
I applaud the ShareOwners.org initiative, and would like to suggest an additional strategy. The voter funded media (VFM) system is designed to help us voters use our power in corporations (where we own shares) and democracies (where we are voting citizens) so as to serve our interests, which are generally close to the broad public interest. An important reason why corporate political spending can fool us into voting for politicians who do not serve the public interest, is that we lack well-funded media loyal to the public interest. Letting voters allocate public funds to competing media would fill this gap, thus undercutting the influence of campaigns that try to fool us.
Similarly, VFM applied to corporations would help us shareowners keep management accountable to our interests, e.g. ensuring that they do not spend our corporation’s funds on political campaigns that harm us. To see why management’s political interests diverge from ours, see pages 98-99 of “Democracy and Infomediaries” at votermedia.org/publications.
Thus I recommend supporting the spread of voter funded media implementations in democracies (e.g. votermedia.org/communities/82-ubc-ams) and corporations (e.g. Proxy Advisor proposals), as well as for investor education.