In what appears to be a case of a shareholder trolling Goldman Sachs before its annual meeting, the shareholder suggested that the Wall Street titan run for political office, per the Supreme Court’s (and Mitt Romney’s) position that corporations, like Soylent Green, are people.
The shareholder was basically fed up with Goldman being one of the biggest corporate political in American history, and suggested that it would be more honest is Goldman simply ran for office itself and stopped wasting shareholder money on lobbying.
Goldman Sachs rejected the discussion (after checking first with the SEC – hope springs eternal).
First, here’s the proposal the shareholder made – it’s quite well written – then a bit of discussion:
Whereas, the Supreme Court, ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (Citizens United) interpreted the First Amendment’s freedom of speech to include corporate expenditures involving ‘electioneering communications,’ and the court struck down elements of the previously well-established McCain-Feingold law;
Whereas, according to the non-partisan organization Opensecrets.org, in 2012 our company’s PAC and employees spent $6,389,323 in political contributions including $5.3 million to individuals running for office;
Whereas, Goldman Sachs employees are also known to be contributing substantially to so-called Super PACs, which engage in political advertising as authorized by the Citizens United decision;
Whereas, in the opinion of the proponent, massive expenditures on political contributions organized by our company are inappropriate. As investors, we believe the spending by Goldman Sachs PAC and company employees is as likely to jeopardize the reputation of the company as it is to enhance profitability. Further, as citizens, we believe that any such efforts undermine the integrity of our nation’s electoral system, and encourage competitive and covert corporate involvement in elections. They abrogate and overwhelm the role of individual voters in the electoral process and result in domination of our political process by corporations; and
Whereas, the Supreme Court has unleashed the corporation as a ‘person’ for purposes of these fundamentally political and personal activities, we believe it is more appropriate for the Corporation to forthrightly participate in the political process than to do so covertly by availing itself of the opportunity for a behind-the-scene and potentially anonymous role in politics and political advertising.
Therefore, be it resolved,
That the Board of Directors undertake an analysis of the opportunities under federal and state law for Goldman Sachs, as a ‘person’ with certain rights under the laws of the United States and individual states and territories, to run for electoral office where permissible, and to issue a report to shareholders, at reasonable cost and excluding confidential information, by December 31, 2013, on policy options regarding whether and where the corporation can seek to itself run, as a person, for electoral positions.
Over the past 10 years, Goldman Sachs’ PAC and employees have been listed as a top contributor to political campaigns and ranked among the top 10 largest political donors every year. Forty-four out of 49 lobbyists working for our company have previously held government jobs. Twice, in 2004 and 2008, our PAC and employees have contributed more to political campaigns than any other business in the U.S.
In the opinion of the proponent, it would be less damaging to the integrity of our political system and our company, for our Corporation to directly run for office as a person under federal or state law, than to continue in the current form of political participation. “
You might recall that the same Wall Street firms that were being bailed out with taxpayer money in late 2009 continued to lobby the US government about the bailout itself. In other words, they were using our money to lobby for softer regulation. And they certainly got what they wanted, for the most part. While Dodd-Frank was progress, it still fell short of the kind of regulation we’ve had dating back to the Great Depression. And we have Wall Street lobbying to thank for that.
The former congressman Michael G. Oxley, the Ohio Republican whose name is on one of the most famous pieces of business regulatory legislation in history — the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act that imposed tougher accounting measures on firms after scandals at Enron and other companies — is a senior adviser to the Nasdaq stock market. Mr. Oxley received $40,000 in the last quarter of 2009 for lobbying to limit the ownership of banks and other competitors in clearinghouses.
Perhaps a better idea than having corporations run for Congress is to finally just turn Congress into a corporation and be done with it.