Maine Citizens for Clean Elections officially endorses a Foreign Corporate Contribution Ban Initiative.
This initiative will prohibit donations and disbursements by foreign governments, foreign government-owned entities, and foreign government-influenced entities in ballot measures and candidate campaigns. This evolved from a bill that we supported, which narrowly failed to override the Governor’s veto last spring. It also includes a resolve directing our elected leaders to support a federal Constitutional Amendment that would reign in money in politics.
This concern is based on the belief that our system of self-government should place political control in the hands of the sovereign people, and concerns that foreign interests will meddle with that process to leverage their influence or achieve results they cannot win through diplomacy.
Current federal law prohibits the involvement of foreign nationals in candidate campaigns, but it does not prohibit their involvement in issue and ballot question campaigns. Also, federal law does not address a variety of foreign financial interests beyond “foreign nationals” that may seek to influence our elections.
Recap from the first half of the 130th Legislative Maine session:
It is important that we work to insulate our elections from foreign influence, and these bills represented important steps towards returning Maine elections to Mainers.
Representative Kyle Bailey sponsored a bill (LD 479) that would both tighten the restrictions on foreign contributions in candidate campaigns and prohibit most of the foreign money flowing into issue campaigns. Senator Rick Bennett had a bill (LD 194) that was focused on contributions from foreign governments and corporations that they control or heavily influence. And Representative Walter Riseman (LD 641) had a bill focused on contributions in issue campaigns from corporations with a controlling stockholder who is foreign.
It is imperative that we insulate our democracy – both issue campaigns and candidate campaigns – from direct interference from contributors whose national loyalty is to another country.
We warmly welcome people from other countries to visit Maine and become Mainers, and we also welcome investors from abroad to share ownership in our large corporations. But we need a strong guardrail to protect our campaign finance system from the undue influence of large financial expenditures made by mulit-national corporations whose interests lie elsewhere. We will support the strongest possible bill among those considered this year.