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Democrats Hold Up SEC Nominations, Seek Campaign Spending Accountability

Sens. Schumer, Warren, Merkley, Menendez oppose nominees before banking panel

Charles Schumer said answers so far have been "gobbledygook." (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
Charles Schumer said answers so far have been "gobbledygook." (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

A vote on a pair of Securities and Exchange Commission nominees was postponed Thursday as Senate Democrats sought more clarity on how they would use their roles to force more accountability on campaign financing.  

The SEC nominees, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, had been asked by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., to outline their positions on a proposed rule designed to require corporations to detail their political spending for investors.  

He told the Banking Committee on Thursday that the nominees shouldn’t be confirmed until he gets more than “gobbledygook” about their views on campaign finance.  

“I have not received answers sufficient from either nominee to the SEC on the question of the SEC’s rule making on the disclosure of corporate political spending,” Schumer said. “I believe this should be a priority for the SEC.”  

The Citizens United decision opened the flood gates for a deluge of dark money into the political system — undisclosed, anonymous, unaccountable,” he added. “It would introduce a small, but undeniable important degree of accountability and sunlight into a system that’s broken.”  

Schumer stressed that he would prefer to see the Supreme Court overturn its decision in the Citizens United case, which gave corporations unprecedented opportunities to pour money into campaigns. But he views the SEC acting on its regulatory authority as an interim step.  

Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey said he would discuss the matter with the two nominees, Hester Peirce and Lisa Fairfax. He joined Schumer, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Jeff Merkley of Oregon in expressing a desire to vote no during a Thursday morning markup at the banking panel.  

“I believe that before they are considered on the floor, we need strong commitments that they will stand with us and the 1.2 million Americans who have weighed in on this issue,” Menendez said during the business meeting.  

The Democrats could slow down, but not necessarily thwart, confirmation of the nominations, since a procedural hold would require Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to move to limit debate on each of them in order to get to a confirmation vote.  

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