07/05/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Defend Democracy -- Make Companies Disclose Political Spending

At the beginning of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that amplified the power of our country's already powerful corporations by giving them free reign to spend without limit or restraint in our elections. This decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, opened new avenues for corporate influence in campaigns -- companies can spend in ways they couldn't spend before, at times they couldn't spend at before, and in amounts they couldn't spend in before.

Since Citizens United, I have been working to demand that corporations are more accountable and transparent with their political spending. As part of that effort, the New York City Public Advocate's Office is organizing the public to call on companies, like healthcare company Coventry Health and energy company Valero Energy, to disclose their political spending.

This week, we're gathering signatures on a petition calling on banks to fully disclose their political spending. Each year banks pour hundreds of millions of dollars into the political process -- this year alone the financial industry has already spent over $120 million to lobby Congress and made close to $30 million in political contributions in this election cycle. The Chamber of Commerce has joined in, spending millions of dollars on ads to gut financial reform of crucial consumer protections. Corporate spending in politics is an issue across all industries, but the current consideration of financial reform calls for a deserved focus on the financial industry.

After Citizens United, companies like J.P. Morgan, Charles Schwab, and others in finance industry could spend even more through trade associations like the Chamber of Commerce, all with virtual anonymity. Those trade associations can now spend on direct advocacy ads, all without any disclosure as to the source of the funds to run those ads. This unparalleled level of anonymous influence could jeopardize the passage of crucial banking reforms designed to rein in the irresponsible and reckless Wall Street practices which caused the national recession.

In that spirit, I launched a petition to demand corporations to disclose all their political spending so consumers, shareholders, and the public can hold them accountable for their actions. My office and several advocacy groups have been gathering signatures on the streets of New York City. On Friday, we'll visit Goldman Sachs on the day of their annual meeting and call on them to adopt full disclosure of political spending by disclosing their contributions to trade associations. In the days afterwards, we will be continuing to publicly call on companies, both in the financial sector and outside of it, asking them to embrace transparency and disclose their political contributions, campaign spending, and contributions to trade associations.

I hope you will sign our petition online, and forward the email below to anyone you know and join us as collect signatures and call on companies to disclose their political spending.