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Business Think Tank Warns Against Political Contributions

A group of business leaders sent a stern message today to corporate executives who make big political donations under newly relaxed rules: Don’t do it.

“Corporations and their leaders do not need to be dragged into this morass, which many of us see as just another form of rent-seeking here in Washington,” Charles Kolb, president of the Committee for Economic Development, said at a Capitol Hill forum to release three CED reports on the economic perils of political money. He added: “Stick with what you do best.”

Kolb and other CED officials are calling on the nation’s business executives to take the lead in fixing what they say are the ills unleashed by last year’s landmark Supreme Court ruling to free up corporate and union political spending.

That Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling has opened the way for unlimited corporate and union donations to super PACs, 527 groups and nonprofits, Kolb noted, and much of the money is undisclosed.

“We advise you not to give from your corporate treasuries to these individuals and organizations,” Kolb said. “But if you do give, at least disclose it.”

The nonprofit CED, which represents more than 200 business leaders and university presidents, has long been an advocate for changes to the campaign finance system. Its report indicted the Citizens United ruling as bad for American democracy and bad for business.

The nation’s economic leadership relies on the rule of law and transparency in business practices, said Ed Kangas, retired chairman and CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.

“Disclosure and transparency are essential to our financial markets; the same is true of our political system,” said Kangas, who co-chaired a CED Money in Politics Subcommittee that produced the reports, alongside Landon Rowland, chairman emeritus of the Janus Capital Group and chairman of Ever Glades Financial.

Kangas indicted the Citizens United ruling in the strongest terms, arguing that it has paved the way for “legalized extortion and bribery, legal and judicial shakedowns.”

The reports unveiled at today’s forum, which took place at the Washington Court Hotel, also called on Congress to pass legislation to enhance disclosure and to publicly fund campaigns by matching low-dollar political contributions and on state officials to end judicial elections.

The three reports are titled “After Citizens United: Improving Accountability in Political Finance,” “Hidden Money: The Need for Transparency in Political Finance,” and “Partial Justice: The Peril of Judicial Elections.”

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