August 09, 2017

Get Foreign Money Out Of Politics

Jamie Raskin is trying to get to the root of the Russiagate question: money.

by Chris Thomas

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There are still a great deal of questions to be answered about who did what with the Russians in 2016 but some of what we know already is plenty concerning all on its own. The American campaign finance system is awash in money representing a diverse population of interests, not all of which are American. H.R. 1615 — the “Get Foreign Money Out Of U.S. Elections Act” — seeks to close campaign finance loopholes that allow foreign governments and foreign businessmen to spend large sums to influence US politics.

Why It Matters

Under existing campaign finance law, foreign companies with US subsidiaries may give to US candidates through those subsidiaries. While the subsidiaries are US based, the people and organizations that control them generally hold allegiance to other nations and governments. It is not difficult to imagine why Congress might prefer American legislators, executives, and other elected officials unbeholden to foreign interests.

Yet it is also not difficult to imagine why Congress might prefer to allow such giving. The US House enjoys a re-election rate that has not dipped below 80% in more than 50 years and only three Senate elections in the last 35 years have seen even one in five incumbents ousted from the chamber. Access to the halls of power in Washington gives access to deep pocketed donors which, in turn, make re-election a very safe bet.

In the wake of the 2016 elections the specter of foreign influence over the US electoral system is more daunting than it has ever been. Elections are the way in which the American people assert their ownership over both their democracy and their country. If foreign powers — either through tampering, propaganda, or mere advertising — are able to take control of that process then the Republic will not long stand.

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