“Congress should protect political speech by ignoring Disclose Act”

Brad Smith and Eric Wang oped in The Hill:

The Disclose Act of 2017 introduced by Whitehouse would upend the existing law by categorically prohibiting any political activity by a corporation or subsidiary if more than 20 percent of its voting shares are foreign-owned. This percentage ownership limit is a smokescreen, however, as the bill also would much more severely prohibit any corporate political activity if a foreign national “has the power to direct, dictate, or control the [corporation’s] decisionmaking process.” Because the owner of even one share of a publicly traded corporation generally has such power through a shareholders meeting or a proxy vote, this provision likely would strip away the political speech rights of any public company with even one foreign shareholder.

In a vacuum, perhaps we could be accused of over-reading this extreme result into the bill. But FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub outlined this very same legal approach in a New York Times opinion last year as a way to counteract the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which permitted certain corporate political activity.

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