Wait… Can Foreign Companies Now Spend On US Political Elections?


Newsweek asks this very question:

…Does the high court want this decision to apply to foreign corporations as well as domestic ones, he ponders? The truth is, the court didn’t make a decision one way or the other.

Foley best explains the potential issues by talking about the electronic, video, and communication giant, Sony. The corporation is headquartered in Japan, but a large number of its shareholders reside in the United States. In fact, people can even buy and trade Sony’s stock on the New York Stock Exchange. The issue is whether this corporation, with strong ties to a foreign country and the United States, should be permitted to independently contribute money to presidential and congressional campaigns.

The court sought to expand First Amendment protection for corporations, but did it really mean to promote the free flow of ideas from Russian or Chinese corporations, Foley asks? Justice John Paul Stevens focused on the same concerns in his dissenting opinion. The majority’s position “would appear to afford the same protection to multinational corporations controlled by foreigners as to individual Americans,” he writes.

In the summary of the majority opinion, I noted this passage:

…it would be overbroad even if the Court were to recognize a compelling governmental interest in limiting foreign influence over the Nation’s political process.

That sounds like the Court has left this open to a challenge and looks like they might support allowing foreign companies to spend freely in elections in the United States. I guess this would be the corporate globalization of the U.S. electoral system. The Center for Public Integrity looks at this closer and shows what kind of foreign influence we are looking at:

One prominent examples is CITGO Petroleum Company — once the American-born Cities Services Company, but purchased in 1990 by the Venezuelan government-owned Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. The Citizens United ruling could conceivably allow Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has sharply criticized both of the past two U.S. presidents, to spend government funds to defeat an American political candidate, just by having CITGO buy TV ads bashing his target.

And it’s not just Chavez. The Saudi government owns Houston’s Saudi Refining Company and half of Motiva Enterprises. Lenovo, which bought IBM’s PC assets in 2004, is partially owned by the Chinese government’s Chinese Academy of Sciences. And Singapore’s APL Limited operates several U.S. port operations. A weakening of the limit on corporate giving could mean China, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and any other country that owns companies that operate in the U.S. could also have significant sway in American electioneering.

I really can’t see Americans being too happy about this.