WASHINGTON, D.C. — Less than an hour before President Obama began his State of the Union remarks last night, Sen. Al Franken introduced a bill aimed at curtailing foreign influence in U.S. elections, a measure prompted by a Supreme Court ruling last week his office said overturned not just federal campaign finance laws but also a 20-year-old Minnesota law prohibiting corporate spending on elections.
A short time later, Franken gained a powerful ally.
“I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities,” Obama said. “They should be decided by the American people. And I’d urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.”
Franken’s bill would ban election spending and contributions by corporations primarily financed by foreign nationals, whose boards of directors or stock ownership are controlled by a majority foreign nationals. Companies that allow foreign nationals to participate in political activities like political action committees would also be barred.
All other companies would be required to disclose exactly how much of their firm is controlled by foreign nationals or, if they can’t, how much of their financing comes from foreign nationals.
It remains a point of debate as to just how last week’s 5-4 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which overturned hosts of campaign finance regulations, including those on corporate contributions, would affect rules on campaign donations from foreign nationals.
Obama said during his State of the Union that the ruling would “open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections,” prompting Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to mouth “not true.”
“It undid laws seeking to regulate corporations across the country and in Minnesota that go back over 60 years,” Schultz said in a statement. “As a result of it corporate money will flood into Minnesota, threatening the basic integrity of our elections and the power of citizens to control their own government. Senator Franken’s bill is an important first step in addressing Citizens United and preventing money from further destroying our elections in Minnesota.”