One Disclosure Victory, But Don’t Stop There
Thanks to clever maneuvering by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, Qualcomm Inc., a telecom firm based in San Diego, has disclosed its political spending for the 2012 election cycle.
How’d he do it? The New York State Common Retirement Fund, which DiNapoli manages, invests in Qualcomm, making DiNapoli an investor. That gives him a right to know how the money he’s invested is being spent—if public retirement funds are being spent to influence and gain access to elected officials, DiNapoli in his role as an investor and public servant deserves to know.
Rather than risk a protracted legal battle, Qualcomm made its political activities public in exchange for DiNapoli dropping the lawsuit, and Common Cause applauds Qualcomm. This is a victory for transparency, but it doesn’t go far enough.
Under federal law, Qualcomm and other public companies are allowed to keep most of their donations anonymous. That’s why even though individual victories like this might be satisfying, we need comprehensive measures that will hold every company to the same standards for accountability and transparency that DiNapoli won here.
It also shows it’s high time for the Securities and Exchange Commission to step in and require all publicly traded companies that spend investors’ money on elections to disclose what they’re doing. They were considering doing this just last month, and Common Cause circulated a petition that got X signatures.