FEC Rules Foreign Donors Can Finance Referendum Campaigns

(FreedomBeacon.com)- The Federal Elections Commission has opened the door to foreign money influencing US elections. 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.

Foreign nationals are prohibited from donating to political candidates or political action committees. However, the FEC’s decision will allow foreign donors to support ballot committees. And this should concern you as it provides a way for foreign nationals to directly influence US voters and domestic policies.

The FEC’s decision only relates to federal law. States remain free to outlaw foreign funding for state-registered ballot referendum committees. Currently, seven states have already outlawed this foreign funding.

The Maine legislature recently passed legislation to ban the practice, however, Democrat Governor Janet Mills vetoed the legislation. A Canadian-owned power company is currently financing a ballot committee pushing for new energy transmission lines in Maine.

There are already 61 initiatives on state ballots for 2022. The FEC’s decision could potentially affect not just policy initiatives, but the mechanics of the US democratic process itself.

In clearing the way for foreign donors, the FEC has put wealthy foreign nationals in a position to influence the political process. However, those who support the FEC’s move believe that prohibiting foreign donations on ballot initiatives would prevent such measures from being placed on state ballots where they can be decided by voters.

The FEC’s decision was prompted by a 2018 complaint alleging illicit foreign funding for a ballot committee in Montana. A Canadian subsidiary of the Australian firm Sandfire Resources had financed a measure to block new restrictions on hard rock mining in Montana.

The FEC 4-2 vote dismissing the complaint was supported by FEC Chair Shana Broussard, a Democrat, and the panel’s three Republican members.

According to David Brooks, one of the complainants in the case and the executive director of Montana Trout Unlimited, the FEC’s ruling is “surprising and scary.” In a response to Axios, Brooks wondered if American citizens are okay with letting foreign money influence US policy through citizen initiative campaigns.

Brendan Fischer, director of federal and FEC reforms at the Campaign Legal Center, told Axios that the FEC decision “reflects a big loophole in the federal ban on foreign money in US elections.”