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The extent and variety of corporate crime, fraud and abuse witnessed in recent years demonstrates the need for a new set of rules and new resourses devoted to restraining corporate abuse of the public trust. Candidates can demonstrate their leadership by elevating the broad principle of corporate accountability as a campaign theme and elucidating the specific measures they would adopt to hold corporations accountable.

The Center for Corporate Policy has prepared a list of measures for candidates wishing to demonstrate their leadership in holding corporations accountabile:

1) Go After Corporate Tax Traitors. Loopholes in the tax code that that corporations have exploited by moving their headquarters off-shore (without substantially changing their operations) should be closed. Corporations that create a "brass-plate" headquarters off-shore should be "repatriated" - i.e. taxed as if they never moved.(1) Auditing firms should not be allowed to sell their clients advice on corporate tax shelters, which cost the U.S. Treasury an estimated $18 billion per year.(2) Corporations that move offshore should also be barred from government contracts.(3)

2) End Corporate "War Profiteering." All no-bid, sole-source contracting and subcontracting in Iraq and elsewhere should be ended, esp. when there is no demonstrably compelling national security argument for not saving the taxpayers money by seeking competitive bids. Profits should be capped at 3 to 7 percent of the final estimate for work, so that incentives are removed to pad the cost of "cost-plus" contracts. Audits of major contractors by the General Accounting Office (GAO) should be routine. For more information click HERE.

3) Stop Contracting With Corporate Law-breakers. Companies with a history of repeat violations of law (e.g. WorldCom) should be barred from receiving government contracts. A society that tolerates three-strikes-and-you’re-out laws for individuals should apply the modest debarment sanction against repeat corporate wrongdoers. Given that government procurement constitutes a substantial portion of national GDP, a clear debarment rule can meaningfully deter corporate wrongdoing. Corporations that within a three-year period twice commit the same offense, if conviction of the offense is a cause for debarment under the government procurement rules, should be presumptively considered ineligible to bid for federal contracts. All contracts should be posted on a publicly-available web site.

4) Rein in Executive Excess and Pay Workers a Living Wage. Corporations should not be allowed to deduct from their tax bill any form of compensation above 25 times that of the lowest-paid employee in the company, a standard proposed by Peter Drucker.(4) In addition, companies bailed out by the U.S. government should not be allowed to increase the total compensation of any executives already being paid $300,000 or more.(5) Stock options should be expensed as a form of compensation so that loopholes in accounting rules that led to an incentive to cook the books are closed.(6)

5) Get Tough on Corporate Crime. The Justice Department should establish a permanent corporate crime division with 500 agents, including a standing, nimble task force ready to investigate major reported cases of crime, fraud and other forms of abuse. The department should also issue an annual corporate crime report so that policymakers can track trends in different kinds of corporate crime (labor, consumer, environmental, financial, etc.) and maintain a publicly-available online database of information useful to federal contract officers, investors, investigative journalists and other members of the public. The department should also establish a national information clearinghouse for local prosecutors.

6) Ban Tax Deductions for Settlements and Other Penalties. No corporation should be allowed to deduct any payments for crime, fraud, and other forms of abuse from their taxes. A sizeable chunk of the settlement that the SEC reached with the Wall Street banks for the analyst scandals was reportedly tax-deductible. This essentially pins the fine on taxpayers - many of them victims of this fraud.(7)

7) Close the Revolving Door. Restrictions on lobbying former government colleagues and employers should be extended to five years.

8) Empower Citizens to Enforce the Law When the Government Won't. A Citizens Bounty Act should be established to restore the citizens' right to force corporations to comply with the law when government fails to do its job. This provision should be applied to laws which protect the environment, protect the safety of workers, prohibit racial discrimination or otherwise effect the purposes of the people. A series of wrong-headed Supreme Court opinions, culminating in the 1992 decision, Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, has twisted the law of "standing" -- the determination as to whether a particular person or group has the right to bring a lawsuit -- in a manner that has undermined the intent of Congress, the provisions of the Constitution and the will of the people.

9) Expand Reporting Requirements and Improve Corporate Governance. Corporations should be required to report, on an annual basis, basic information about their operations around the world, including labor, environmental, occupational health and injury, tax payments, and violations of law, including criminal convictions and pleas of nolo contendere, all civil infractions and verdicts as well as violations of local, state and federal law and regulation. Investors should be given improved access to the candidate nomination process for the corporation's board of directors.

10) Stop the Economic Race-to-the-Bottom. U.S. corporations should be bound to adhere to the same labor and environmental standards abroad that they are required to abide by at home. Overseas victims of violations and abuses -- including non-U.S. citizens -- should be empowered to sue U.S. companies in U.S. courts.

11) Bust the Trusts. A moratorium should be placed on any further media deregulation by the Federal Communications Commission and licenses to use the people's airwave's should be revoked in local markets where an owner controls the majority of outlets or the community has no effective means of using the airwaves for public purposes such as an emergency response.

12) Address the Corporate Threat to National Security. Corporations should not be allowed to circumvent the country's foreign policy. Halliburton and other companies reportedly have been using offshore subsidiaries to conduct business in Iran, a member of the administration's so-called "axis of evil." A national commission should be established to evaluate the threat that these and other activities by corporate multinational conglomerates pose to U.S. national security interests.

Footnotes

You can find any existing bills and determine whether or not candidates in Congress support them by searching Thomas.

(1) See the Corporate Patriot Enforcement Act of 2003 (Introduced in both the Senate and House: S.384 and H.R.737). Also see the "Sales Tax Equity Act of 2003" (S. 1436; Sec. 242).
(2) See the Auditor Independence and Tax Shelters Act, (Introduced in both the Senate and House: S.1767 and H.R.3599).
(3) See the Wellstone Memorial Renegade Corporation Act of 2003 (Introduced in the Senate: S.134); and the Wellstone Memorial Stop Corporate Expatriates Act (Introduced in the House: H.R.1355).
(4) See the Income Equity Act of 2003 (Introduced in House, H.R.2888). For more information see Rep. Martin Sabo's Income Gap web site.
(5) The $300,000 standard was established for airline companies under the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act, 107 P.L.42 (H.R. 2926, September 22, 2001).
(6) See the Ending the Double Standard for Stock Options Act, (Introduced in the Senate: S.182); and the Ending the Double Standard for Stock Options Act (Introduced in the House: H.R. 626).
(7) See the Government Settlement Transparency Act of 2003 (Introduced in the Senate: S.936).

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