With the political deck stacked in favor of big business interests it’s important to use what corporate levers we can.
By: Ron Freund, CFS
Director, Corporate Responsibility, Social Equity Group
Current Political Climate
Jay Clayton’s confirmation as SEC Chair is just the latest in the list of Trump appointments designed to undermine the very agency they will head. He follows in the wake of Betsy Devos, Tom Price and Scott Pruitt. It’s important to hold members of Congress who supported his confirmation accountable for putting a Wall Street insider in charge of regulating Wall Street.
With the battle over the Supreme Court confirmation over, Americans now have a government in which all 3 branches are controlled by right or far right forces- sharing similar ideological beliefs and corporate backing. And, in 2018, the country faces another challenge as many progressive allies will be vulnerable to losing their seats in the Senate. All 3 branches could thus be dominated by a rightist agenda by early 2019. A major assault on regulation and legislation protecting the environment, civil and voting rights, the workplace, the First Amendment, and campaign reform is in place. Without a strategy that has some chance of success, we will drift into a one party state.
Strategies of Opposition and Advocacy
- Work with Congress on disclosure goals. It is important to continue working closely with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who share the goal of greater disclosure of corporate political spending and lobbying.
- Reach across the aisle to those Republican members of Congress who either share the goal of greater disclosure of corporate political spending and lobbying, or who feel vulnerable to challenges from Democrats in upcoming elections. We only need 3 Red Senators if Democrats are united on any given issue.
- Forge stronger alliances with progressive corporations and investor groups. The old paradigm of democratic Capitalism whereby government acts as a check on corporate power has been upended. It is now up to progressive ﬁnancial forces to act as a check on Government. This means increasing engagement with corporations that have demonstrated a commitment to to a progressive agenda. This includes those that have opposed the Trump agenda on climate change, human rights, and political spending/lobbying disclosure.
- Replace and influence the current power structure at the Chamber of Commerce. As one of the largest lobbying entities in the country, the Chamber uses its power to push policies which contradict the views of many of its largest members. We need to work with companies willing to challenge the current leadership. We should look at the model of how the NRA was taken over by the “pro-gun” lobby in the 1970s, completely transforming that organization. We could do the same but this will require a long game and a new strategy.
- Enlist corporate and investor allies to continue direct pressure on other corporations through dialogue and shareholder action to disclose and adopt strong limits on political contributions.
- Continue to strengthen the work at the state and local level in blue and red states. Utilizing grassroots capacity within coalitions and local-national partnerships is important to activate Americans across the country to speak out about the importance of corporate political spending disclosure and hold their members of Congress accountable on the issue.
In this challenging political climate it is critical to use our limited energy to focus on strategies which can be effective and lasting. It is more urgent than ever to strengthen our democratic process and protect the planet from damaging long term consequences.