The leaker behind the recent Panama Papers scandal revealed thousands of shell companies the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca used to hide assets for 14,000-plus wealthy individuals and corporations. Of note: Not many Americans were listed in the leak.

In “Panama of the North,” Susan Harley of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division indicates the reason few Americans were listed: The US is already well-established as a tax haven. Most states, like Nevada, require less information to start a company than to get a library card, a driver’s license, or even a voter ID card under Wisconsin’s new law.

Anonymous companies are used to disguise true ownership, which allows people to keep assets secret for such nefarious activities as tax evasion, money laundering, human trafficking, drug dealing and arms trading. Corporate anonymity is compounded when shell companies are hidden within other shell companies, thwarting law enforcement searches for individual criminals.

To end the problem of secret money stashed in shell companies, true owners of businesses must be listed at the time of incorporation. A proposed bipartisan bill, the Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act (S2489/HR4450) requires collection of beneficial ownership information at the time corporations are formed. This strong bill with real teeth will fight illegal and immoral activities. Many law enforcement organizations have endorsed the bill, including the head of the FBI’s financial crimes unit.

Harley makes the point that when you couple the fact that corporations are using shell companies as a tax avoidance strategy with the fact of unlimited corporate campaign spending since the Citizens United decision, politicians may find it hard to stand up to big corporations by supporting this bill. This is the reason informed, concerned citizens have to step up, contact our representatives, and tell them why we demand passage of this legislation.

Contact your US Representative and Senators to ask them to support this bill. Not only will the bill aid law enforcement to track down criminals and tax dodgers, it will help even the playing field between wealthy individuals/multinational corporations and the rest of us by promoting tax fairness, ebbing illegal money flows and revealing criminals.

To read Harley’s article and for links to more information on this subject, go to http://www.citizenvox/org/2016/05/16/panama-of-the-north//.

Contact information:

Representative Sean Duffy 855-585-4251;

Senator Ron Johnson 202-224-5323;

Senator Tammy Baldwin 800-247-5645;