Show Me the Money: The Corporate Reform Coalition and the Fight for Campaign Finance Reform in a Post-Citizens United America

Cameron C. Berube, SIT Graduate Institute


The 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case allowed unlimited spending by corporations to influence U.S. elections. In response, a committee of law professors filed a petition in 2011 calling for the Security and Exchange Commission to pass a rule requiring US corporations to disclose their political spending. Initially placed on the SEC’s 2013 agenda, the rulemaking was later removed by current chair Mary Jo White before it could be discussed.

While employed as a “Democracy Associate” by the consumer advocacy watchdog Public Citizen from November 2015 to March 2016, I co-led a group of over 85 member organizations known The Corporate Reform Coalition in a campaign to pressure the SEC to require corporations to disclose political spending. We attempted to achieve this by bolstering private sector support for disclosure by pressuring the mutual fund Vanguard to vote its proxies in favor of political spending disclosure shareholder resolutions at the corporations they invest in.

The US political landscape is currently changing so rapidly, that it is hard to say whether this campaign will be a success. As of this writing, there has been no movement on a political spending transparency rule at the SEC and Vanguard has not yet agreed to change their proxy voting guidelines or to support political spending disclosure.

Personally, I made several contributions including strategic planning, strategic corporate research, coalition building and communications. Overall, I believe that my contributions were generally useful and that I made a meaningful contribution to the team. Unfortunately, may impact in this role may have been limited by its short duration.

My final takeaway from the experience is that, while the struggle may be infinite, resistance is purpose enough.