Democrats introduce bill to end political spending by foreign-owned corporations

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.)
Greg Nash

House Democrats reintroduced a bill Tuesday that would block foreign-owned corporations from spending company funds to influence U.S. elections.

The bill would extend the federal ban on political donations from foreign nationals to multinational companies that are at least partially owned by foreign nationals. Following the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that allowed corporations to spend unlimited sums to influence elections, some U.S. subsidiaries of foreign-owned companies have made large donations to super PACs.

“Six days after the Supreme Court invented corporate free speech rights in Citizens United, President Obama warned that the Court had just opened ‘the floodgates’ for foreign interests to funnel cash freely into American elections through corporations,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the bill’s lead sponsor, said in a statement. “He was right.”

The bill is backed by watchdog groups that say that loopholes in campaign finance law make the U.S. vulnerable to foreign influence. This summer, the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) Office of the Inspector General warned that the agency does not do enough to crack down on foreign money in U.S. politics.

“Americans deserve to know who is trying to influence our voices and our votes, and foreign entities should have zero role in determining American elections,” Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause, said in a statement.

The FEC has rarely punished foreign corporations for injecting money into U.S. elections, with its commissioners often arguing that Congress should first update the law. In 2019, the agency fined a super PAC affiliated with Jeb Bush for soliciting donations from a company owned by Chinese executives during the 2016 election. 

The bill’s provisions would apply to multinational corporations backed by significant foreign investment, including tech giants such as Meta and Amazon. Seattle lawmakers passed a similar bill after Amazon spent an unprecedented $1.5 million to influence Seattle’s 2019 City Council elections. 

“The American people understand that foreign influence, through any form, has no place in our elections,” Ron Fein, legal director of advocacy group Free Speech For People, said in a statement. “Concealing such influence via corporate spending presents serious harm to our democracy.”

Raskin previously introduced the Get Foreign Money Out of U.S. Elections Act in the previous two Congresses. Democrats’ sweeping election reform bill, which passed the House but remains stalled in the Senate, would also attempt to crack down on foreign spending in U.S. elections.  

Tags Amazon Barack Obama Citizens United corporations foreign influence Jamie Raskin Super PAC

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