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A ray of hope in dismal U.S. political campaign finance: Transparent companies now disclosing “soft money” contributions.

“Corporations Open Up On Giving In Politics” .

That was worth a headline in The New York Times today

Many Americans will say, “it’s about time.” Meaning that these Americans have long felt dis-enfranchised by the steeplechase growth of money in our elections. And the 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United decision — supporting anonymous “soft money” political contributions –increased that flow by a coefficient not yet determined. 

Now comes news from the News York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli that some twenty-eight companies, including the likes of Comcast and Delta Airlines, have adopted or agreed to adopt political spending disclosure procedures.

What seems especially relevant to Business In Society is that these decisions, like so many “corporate citizenship” initiatives, are rooted not only in societal responsibility, but even more directly in good-business policy. In a related statement, Comptroller DiNapoli said it well:

“Shareholders need transparency in order to determine whether corporate political spending benefits the company’s long term value.”

But even more significantly, this mini-trend has broad political relevance. Times columnist Eduardo Porter  Porter nailed it:

“Mr. DiNapoli’s success in bringing corporate contributions to light … poses a challenge to the popular narrative of the role of money in politics.”

“It undercuts the notion that corporations are chomping at the bit, eager to purchase American elections on the sly. Corporate governance, it seems, can impose at least some of the restraint that Congress and the Supreme Court — in lifting the limits on corporations under the argument that they have many of the same rights as people — have refused to demand.”

Americans have many miles to travel in addressing money and transparency in our political system. But now an argument can be made that some in the private sector have the courage to go where “political leaders” fear to tread.