The Brennan Center for Hypocrisy

Brennan Center for Justice Hypocrisy attorney Ciara Torres-Spelliscy has posted a draft of a paper, “Corporate Political Spending & Shareholders’ Rights: Why the U.S. Should Adopt the British Approach” (via Rick Hasen’s Election Law Blog). We’ve addressed the merits of this specific policy question in the Citizens United v. FEC case, but what’s stunning about this topic is the hypocrisy of “reform” groups like the Brennan Center, which accept copious corporate contributions to further their regulatory agenda with no regard to shareholders’ rights.

I hereby offer this challenge to the Brennan Center: Considering the Brennan Center’s stance on shareholders’ rights, the Brennan Center should stop accepting corporate contributions unless a corporation can certify that its shareholders support the mission and agenda of the Brennan Center. The Brennan Center should further scour its past corporate contributions and return those from corporations whose shareholders cannot affirm support for the Brennan Center. Finally, the Brennan Center, like most 501(c)3 organizations, exercises its rights to keep its donors anonymous. If it really believes it’s B.S. shareholders’ protection argument, it should disclose every corporate contribution to the Brennan Center.

On Monday, Nov. 16 the Brennan Center is hosting its annual Legacy Awards Dinner 2009. Guess who they’re honoring? Nicole Seligman, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Sony Corporation. I hope the Sony Corporation isn’t availing itself of the opportunity to sponsor the Brennan Center by buying a $10,000 to $50,000 table at the dinner…

Past honorees and event chairs (and one would assume corporate donors) have included executives at The Coca-Cola Company, Citigroup, UBS Paine Webber, Inc., Pfizer, Novartis AG, NBC Universal, The Hartford Financial Services Group and The Travelers Companies, Inc. Disgraced and imprisoned trial lawyer Melvyn Weiss has frequently chaired the dinners.

Brad Smith examined the Brennan Center’s “crocodile tears for shareholder rights,” earlier this month:

Why, many large corporations, including Bear Stearns and Enron, have supported the Brennan Center over the years. Where are the complaints? When did the folks at the Brennan Center return those contributions out of concern for the poor shareholders who may oppose their 401(k)s being used to further the Brennan Center’s agenda?  No, not only doesn’t the Brennan Center mind, they actually are quite active in soliciting such corporate support, with no regard whatsoever for the shareholders whose 401(k)s are being used in this manner.  There’s a word for that which, by the way, starts with “H.”