New coalition wants companies to pledge not to use corporate dollars on political campaigns

By Dan Eggen
Monday, October 4, 2010; 1:20 AM

Several prominent Democratic politicians plan to announce a new coalition Monday aimed at pressuring major companies to foreswear using corporate money on political campaigns.

The Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending, spearheaded by New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio (D), aims to secure promises from major corporations to fully disclose any political spending and, ideally, to avoid spending corporate money directly on elections.

The effort marks the latest response to the Supreme Court's landmark ruling early this year in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allows corporations, unions and nonprofit groups to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections. The ruling has helped fuel a record year for spending by outside interest groups, mostly in favor of Republicans, records show.

The new coalition springs out of a successful effort by de Blasio, who serves as a trustee for New York City's largest pension fund, to convince Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley to adopt policies against spending money from their general treasuries in elections. The firms will still run their own political-action committees, which are operated independently, officials said.

De Blasio said in an interview that the national effort was necessary because of the failure of Congress to agree to new disclosure requirements for corporations.

"The efforts to respond to Citizens United on the federal level haven't worked, so it's time for states and localities to step up," di Blasio said. "We have to encourage transparency and discourage bad corporate behavior."

Other Democrats joining de Blasio in the coalition are Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord, Los Angeles Controller Wendy Greuel and New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. and other grass-roots political groups are also participating, officials said.

President Obama has sharply criticized the Supreme Court's decision on corporate political spending, but Democrats failed twice to push legislation through the Senate that would increase disclosure requirements for companies. Republicans accuse Democrats of attempting to quash the free-speech rights of corporations, in part because business groups tend to lean toward the GOP.

De Blasio said the anti-spending coalition welcomes Republicans, and said many GOP officials on the local and state levels are more likely to share the group's concerns. "I fully expect this to be a bipartisan effort," he said.

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