The right to know
Secret campaign donations affect not only elections, but shareholders of corporations who have no way of knowing if the secret political activity is in their interest, and might prefer that the spending be reflected in dividends or higher stock prices.
That's why the Securities and Exchange Commission is on the mark in pursuing a regulation that would require publicly traded companies to disclose to shareholders all of the enterprise's political activity.
Ever since the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which allowed corporations to fund political activity as long as it is not coordinated specifically with campaigns, few publicly traded companies directly have done so. Few have contributed to "superPACS," which are regulated by the Federal Election Commission and have detailed disclosure requirements.
Instead, many corporations have contributed heavily to trade associations or incorporated political advocacy groups, which use the money to mount massive political advertising campaigns without having to disclose their donors.
The SEC is examining whether the corporations should have to report that spending to their stockholders. Obviously, the correct answer is "yes." Stockholders have every right to determine if the spending is appropriate and to determine how it plays into matters of corporate governance, such as executive compensation.
Major institutional investors, from university endowment funds, to union, government and private-sector pension funds, to charitable foundations, also have a right to know if their investments are funding political activity with which they disagree, or which might harm their own interests.
Many of the trade associations that rely on the massive secret donations to press their agendas naturally have lined up in the cause of continued secrecy. That, of course, further demonstrates the wisdom of adopting the regulation.