This is the first edition of the Corporate Accountability Coalition’s Congressional Report Card, a long-overdue effort to measure the commitment of members of the U.S. Congress to keeping the power of large corporations in check, promoting transparency and responsible business practices, and holding corporations accountable for their actions. Corporations are an important part of modern life and the modern economy, but their interests do not always represent the interests of living, breathing, human beings. This Report Card attempts an objective measure of efforts to ensure that protecting people, not corporations, is the primary focus of our laws and policy.
Even as the American public has become increasingly concerned about corporate influence over our public institutions, corporate power only continues to expand beyond the reach of the laws, regulators and the courts. This is particularly true for corporate influence over Congress. A September 2000 BusinessWeek / Harris Poll showed that at the time, 74% of Americans were concerned that big businesses had “too much power” in “influencing government policy, politicians, and policy-makers in Washington. By 2012, 9 in 10 Americans polled agreed that there was “way too much corporate money in politics” according to a poll released by the Corporate Reform Coalition.
The American public’s perceptions of unchecked corporate influence extend beyond concerns about corporate money in politics. In 2011, more than 4 in 5 (82%) Americans polled felt that corporations “care mostly about profits, cut corners on services, overcharge on prices, and do not treat their customers well.” In 2012, 40 of the world’s 100 largest economies were multinational corporations. Decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court have granted corporations unprecedented rights, while limiting their responsibilities and restricting the public’s ability to hold them accountable. Every day new stories of corporate malfeasance come to light, in areas ranging from official corruption to human rights abuses and environmental degradation. Lack of Congressional monitoring and action promotes an environment of irresponsible business, giving little incentive for businesses to act responsibly.