As governor’s races in blue states tighten, serving as a barometer of how the country will move politically, the FEC has ruled that foreign donors can finance US referendum campaigns.
It allows foreign spending on fights over high-profile policy issues, Axios has learned.
Foreign nationals are barred from donating to U.S. political candidates or committees. But the FEC’s decision — allowing them to support ballot committees — provides another avenue for foreigners to directly influence U.S. voters and domestic policy.
The Axios report provided more background on the controversial ruling:
- A major question stemming from the decision is whether foreign nationals are now permitted to spend money to influence the actual mechanisms of the U.S. democratic process.
- That would include congressional redistricting, which is frequently subject to ballot referenda.
- The FEC’s ruling did not address that question, meaning it will likely be litigated in future fights at the commission.
“The decision only concerns federal law; states remain free to outlaw foreign funding for state-registered ballot committees,” the report added. The report also noted that the FEC recently rejected considering ballot initiatives as ‘elections,’ although this is a determination that is highly problematic.
“In a 4-2 vote in July, the FEC ruled ballot initiatives are not “elections” under existing federal law, and therefore the foreign donation prohibition doesn’t apply,” Axios reported.
“Two sources familiar with the decision told Axios that FEC chair Shana Broussard, a Democrat, voted with the panel’s three Republicans to dismiss the underlying complaint. It alleged illicit foreign funding for a ballot committee in Montana.”
“This FEC decision reflects a big loophole in the federal ban on foreign money in U.S. elections,” said Brendan Fischer, the director of federal and FEC reforms at the Campaign Legal Center.