WASHINGTON, April 24 (UPI) -- Three major business groups in Washington have lined up against a proposed rule that would force firms to disclose political donations, a joint letter shows.
The letter from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Business Roundtable was sent to executives of Fortune 200 companies encouraging them to oppose efforts to force publicly traded firms to disclose political donations, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
Securities and Exchange Commission officials, however, have indicated that they are working on a rule that could be proposed by the end of the month, the Times said.
While business groups stand in opposition to current laws that allow for secret political donations, the SEC has been flooded with requests for the agency to create a regulation that would have companies under their jurisdiction disclose what they dole out to political campaigns.
Close to a half a million comments have been submitted to the SEC on the issue, the most comments filed on any issue in the agency's history, the Times said.
Overwhelmingly, the comments are in favor of a new rule.
Companies fear political retaliation or a negative reaction from customers if their political donations are exposed.
The issue is so heated that Republicans in the House have introduced a bill that would prohibit the SEC from writing a rule concerning transparency of political donations.
"The SEC has to deal with its own problems, and with what they're actually authorized to be doing," said Steve Lonegan, an official with Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political organization.
On the other hand, "it's a basic precept of American securities law that shareholders should be given the information they need to evaluate their companies," said Robert Jackson Jr. a law professor at Columbia University.