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Money in Politics Chicago Forum: The Role of Corporations in the Political Process

On Tuesday, April 19 at the Union League Club of Chicago, CED, Justice at Stake, and the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR) hosted a stimulating discussion on Money in Politics: The Role of Corporations in the Political Process. Cindi Canary, Director of ICPR [play video], and Charles Kolb, President of CED [play video], welcomed over 100 members of the business, academic, and policy community.

Before introducing Hugh Caperton [play video], President of Harman Mining Company and plaintiff in the US Supreme Court case Caperton v. Massey, Bert Brandenburg, Executive Director of the Justice at Stake Campaign [play video] warned of the growing number of high dollar judicial election races and its effect on the impartiality of our nation's courts. Caperton shared his 13 year old court battle against a "superspender" who contributed to the judicial election campaign of a WV judge, and the refusal of that judge to recuse himself from hearing a case involving the donor and Caperton. Caperton stressed the devastation and destruction caused by corporate spending in judicial campaigns and urged for states to adopt policies that restore the public's confidence in the courts.

CED Trustee Landon Rowland, Director Emeritus, Janus Capital Group and Chairman, Everglades Financial [play video] cautioned that money in politics compromises the free market system and the moral authority of the courts. Rowland warned that a system without constraints brings us perilously close to the "crony capitalism" and "kleptocracy" that haunts other countries' judicial systems. Tony Kavanagh, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at American Electric Power [play video] spoke about the board-driven criteria for corporate political giving, the checks and balances that exist within corporate giving strategy and the changes in internal rules that create firewalls between PAC giving and lobbying activity. William A. Von Hoene, Jr. EVP of Finance and Legal, Exelon Corporation [play video], shared the importance of equitable access to policymakers as a means of meeting the fiduciary responsibilties the company has to the shareholders. He emphasized the importance of transparency in political giving and the role of shareholders in shaping corporate policies. Thomas Gottschalk, Of Counsel at Kirkland & Ellis LLP [play video] stressed that corporations strongly prefer depolicitizing judicial selection, yet at times regard the necessity of engaging in the judicial campaign process as a matter of self protection. Lastly, Gottaschalk validated that corporations do have a significant role to play in the political process with transparency measures in place.