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Sen Warren urges Obama to remove Mary Jo White as SEC chair

Sen. Elizabeth Warren sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Friday, urging him to replace Mary Jo White as head of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In her letter, Warren pressed her call for the SEC to develop a political spending disclosure rule, something she said White has refused to do.

Such a rule would force companies to disclose their political contributions, thus increasing transparency for investors.

"Chair White's refusal to move forward on a political spending disclosure rule serves the narrow interests of powerful executives who would prefer to hide their expenditures of company money to advance their own personal ideologies," Warren said.

The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in 2010 allowed for unlimited political spending by corporations, but Justice Anthony Kennedy expressed his strong support for public disclosure of the money spent.

"Prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters," he wrote.

Mary Jo White, chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts
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Mary Jo White, chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts

When last December's government funding bill prevented the SEC from "finalizing" a rule regarding the disclosure of political contributions, Warren joined dozens of other Democratic lawmakers to remind White that the bill did not prevent the SEC from at least discussing or developing a rule for political spending disclosure to be finalized at a future time. Even then, Warren said, White refused to act.

The Massachusetts Democrat argued in her letter to Obama that the disclosure rule has not been on the agency's regulatory agenda since White removed it shortly after taking office in April 2013.

Warren pointed out that the president has the authority to appoint a new chair from among the commission's members. The other commissioners are Michael Piwowar and Kara Stein. The five-member commission has two vacancies.

In the 12-page letter, Warren noted that Democrats will continue to fight to remove the antidisclosure rider when Congress considers the next government funding bill.

The current one funds the government through Dec. 9.