Fund manager Roger Lowenstein demonstrates a breathtaking ignorance of government checks and balances in an op-ed for the New York Times, suggesting that Senator Elizabeth Warren does not have the right to ask President Obama to remove Mary Jo White as Chair of the SEC.
Last time I checked, the S.E.C. was a regulatory agency of the executive branch, in which Ms. Warren is not, in fact, employed.
Senator Warren is, on the other hand, a member of the United States Senate, which approves (or not, as Judge Merrick Garland can attest) Presidential appointees like Chair White. The terms “advise” and “consent” make clear the duty of the Senate to oversee Presidential appointees. The Senate is also responsible for the enabling legislation and budget for the Commission, and therefore it is entirely within its jurisdiction and indeed its obligation to review and comment on its activities. And a note: she did not call for Chair White to be “fired,” as Lowenstein claims. Commissioners cannot be fired. But the Chair designation is within the authority of the President to reassign and it is entirely within the authority of a Senator (or anyone else, for that matter) to suggest that he do so. (Does anyone remember Lowenstein objecting to the House considering impeachment of the Commissioner of the IRS? For some reason, that did not offend his sense of propriety.)
In fact, it is a provision imposed by Congress in the Commission’s budget that prevents it from issuing rules that would require companies to disclose their direct and indirect campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures.
Actually, dredging up the details of political spending has nothing to do with protecting investors, though it might fall into the category of “things corporations do that some people do not like.”
Actually, it falls into the category of “things the Supreme Court explicitly predicated the Citizens United decision on.”
In the majority decision, Justice Kennedy Anthony M. Kennedy said that corporate political spending depends on the ability of shareholders to ensure that the speech reflects their views rather than diverting corporate assets for the benefit of executives. He suggested that any abuse could be corrected by shareholders “through the procedures of corporate democracy.” He said this would happen because all political spending will be thoroughly disclosed online: “With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters.”
Justice Kennedy correctly notes that the expenditure of corporate assets for political purposes can only be legitimated by transparency and a robust market response.
Senator Warren’s comments on Chair White were accurate, appropriate, and civil. Lowenstein’s criticism of Senator Warren was not.