Federal Election Commission: Letter to Rep. Robert A. Brady
Ann Ravel and Ellen Weintraub
In the alternative, three of our colleagues proposed adopting a new policy that would extend the reasoning of pre-Citizens United advisory opinions and expressly permit foreign-owned domestic subsidiaries to spend money in connection with federal elections, including on independent expenditures and contributions to super PACs, under certain circumstances. They also proposed creating out of whole cloth a new "safe harbor" to more easily facilitate this spending. Because substantively their proposal would have moved us in the wrong direction and procedurally would have deprived the public of an opportunity to comment on it, we opposed it.
As Justice Stevens noted in his dissent in Citizens United, "[u]nlike voters in U.S. elections, corporations may be foreign controlled," and the majority's decision "would appear to afford the same protection to multinational corporations controlled by foreigners as to individual Americans." In his State of the Union Address in 2010, President Obama warned about how Citizens United could "open the floodgates for special interests-including foreign corporations -to spend without limit in our elections. I don't think American elections should be bankrolled ... by foreign entities." We agree. Unfortunately, three of our colleagues have prohibited the Commission from acting to address these concerns.