America is plunging head-long into what will be the most expensive federal election in history, with essentially no cop on the beat to ensure that the election is administered fairly and transparently. This is going to be one messy election.
Money isn't speech and corporations aren't people. Most people get that. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, however, political contributions by corporations and the richest Americans actually are free speech and entitled to special protection. Even when they're made in secret.
More and more of the nation's leading companies are voluntarily adopting or strengthening their policies to provide for detailed disclosure of their political contributions. Yet they're having to do so against very strong opposition from their own leading trade associations.
Despite all of the backstabbing, petty, mean-spirited national ads I see, it's a quiet, local ad that annoys and saddens me the most. But as tired as we all are of the negativity, let us not lose sight of the importance of the opportunity that lies ahead.
There are moral hazards and agency costs in the allocation of corporate funds. Experience has shown that executives will support policies that diminish shareholder returns. The term "capitalism" refers, after all, to the providers of capital.
Secret spending in elections is toxic. The Obama administration's draft executive order to increase transparency in political spending is a big step in the right direction. It is time for the president to sign it.
What's even clearer in the wake of Citizens United and Target's experience is that any corporation engaging in political activity without disclosure and a rigorous governance oversight process heightens its exposure to risk.