It is not just the name of the group objecting to disclosure of political spending that is oxymoronic; it is the vocabulary they use in trying to explain that a proposal to require disclosure of political spending is somehow contrary to notions of free speech instead of the only way to preserve it. The “Free Enterprise Project” has made a statement urging Disney shareholders to vote against a shareholder proposal:
You can tell immediately how desperate opponents to the shareholder proposal at Disney are by the inflammatory rhetoric, referring to proponent Zevin Asset Management in terms that make them sound like bolshevik bomb-throwers instead of the most capitalistic of all institutions, money managers.
Once again, for the record, this is not a liberal vs. conservative issue. The Citizens United decision that opened the door to unlimited political expenditures by corporations explicitly did so on the basis that there was accountability to shareholders. It is obvious that there can be no accountability if there is no disclosure. And it is Free Market 101 that shareholders have the right and, as fiduciaries, the duty to raise issues concerning the inherent agency costs of capitalism. This information is as essential as the required financial and strategic disclosures in making buy/sell decisions and in determining whether to support the nominees for the board and the proposed CEO compensation.
It is not anti-free speech to require companies to explain how and why they spend corporate money to promote political positions that may be contrary not just to the investors’ wishes but to the company’s stated views. And, really important, it is not argument to toss off insults like “liberal” and “well-funded” and “abuse,” especially when the group making the argument is “conservative,” and “well-funded,” and, to our minds, given the shrillness and unfoundedness of this attack on a non-binding shareholder resolution, abusive as well.