Is legalizing corporate electioneering “pro-business?”

While most media outlets suggest expanding corporate political power is “pro-business," two of the three broad-based national business organizations submitting amicus curiae briefs in the case argued against allowing corporations to spend company funds to elect or defeat candidates.

The American Independent Business Alliance (a partner in this coalition) says such a change would badly harm the majority of America’s independent businesses. AMIBA’s brief Amicus Curiae argues that even with present limitations on corporate political power, “large corporations have converted their economic power into political favors that extract subsidies from taxpayers, stifle enforcement of anti-trust laws…and other rules that disadvantage small business.” To enlarge corporate political power further, the brief notes, would both harm the political process and undermine genuine market competition.

The brief Amicus Curiae of the Committee for Economic Development argues giving corporations the “freedom” to dominate electoral campaigns would, in reality, harm many companies by subjecting them to an endless series of shakedowns by politicians. “Each corporation,” states the brief, “would be helpless to get out of the political game, fearful of losing out in the economic marketplace to competitors that were willing to play ball.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed an Amicus Curiae brief calling to abolish the long-standing prohibition on direct corporate electioneering, claiming that century-old precedent serves to “suppress the business viewpoint.” The brief ignores the fact that existing law fully protects the political speech of citizens. Few Americans of any ideology would argue that corporate interests have been muted, never mind silenced, under the status quo.

In its brief last summer, the Chamber claimed to represent 3,000,000 businesses, but its purported constituency promptly shrank by 90% when its membership claims were exposed as false (most small businesses that comprise local Chambers of Commerce have no relation whatsoever to the U.S. Chamber). In truth, the U.S. Chamber is dominated by major corporations, many of which gain advantage through exercising political power that distorts markets and harms smaller competitors.

Many shareholders’ rights advocates express an additional concern: that corporate managers would have license to make political investments with other people’s money — an invitation to personal opportunism and abuse.
 
In sum, laws that protect election integrity also help ensure a competitive marketplace in which businesses succeed based on business performance, not political favors.

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