Foreign Donors and American Politics

"Foreign Currencies"
"Foreign Currencies" by Frederick Noronha on flickr

3 Federal Judges upheld the ban on foreign donations to campaigns on Monday. This decision is likely to be appealed and go to the Supreme Court. The ban is being challenged by Asenath Steiman, who is a citizen of both Israel and Canada. Steiman has made it clear that he wants to contribute to the eventual Republican nominee for President and Senator Tom Coburn. Certainly most campaign finance advocates agree that this is a good decision by the Federal Court, but the Supreme Court has shown they are against almost all restrictions of campaign finance.

There is also great concern that money from foreign governments or businesses is coming into American politics. Foreign interests spent about $200 million on lobbying in 2008, records show. In 09 the Cayman Islands spent nearly 8 million dollars in lobbying, apparently for tourism promotion (of course many corporations use the Cayman Islands to avoid taxes, one wonders if that has something to do with it). That year, Congo also spent 4 million dollars and hired DC based lobbying firms. They were worried about a bill dealing with debtor nations. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stunningly has almost 90 foreign lobbyist contacts. Democrats in the House and Senate have received over a million dollars from PACs representing foreign companies.

Because of pressure by Republican members of the Senate, the IRS stopped investigating Republican secret donors. and whether they gave “gifts” that needed to be revealed for tax reasons. There were concerns that the Pro-Republican Chamber of Commerce was using foreign money in donations in 2010, but its hard to tell if any of that talk had any real merit. However, the one thing we do know, perhaps like Socrates, is that we don’t know. As long as certain donors are allowed to remain anonymous, we simply don’t know the full story of who is buying our politicians.

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