When Citizens United opened the door to corporate funding of elections, many people expressed concern that there would be no way to prevent foreign-owned corporations from exercising influence over U.S. elections. (Campaign contributions from people who are non-U.S. citizens are illegal.)

We’ve just seen the first known case of this happening. As reported by the the Center for Public Integrity (excerpts below), a Canadian-owned corporation has made a $1 million contribution to a superPAC that supports Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.


Canadian-owned firm’s mega-donation to super PAC raises ‘legal red flags’
Pro-Romney group received $1 million from foreign-owned company
By Michael Beckel, Center for Public Integrity, October 5th, 2012

A million-dollar donation by a foreign-owned corporation to a Republican super PAC has raised legal concerns and opened up the controversial Citizens United Supreme Court decision to new criticism.

Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting Republican Mitt Romney’s run for president, received a $1 million donation in mid-August from reinsurance company OdysseyRe of Connecticut, a “wholly-owned subsidiary” of Canadian insurance and investment management giant Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited.

The law says that any foreign national is prohibited from “directly or indirectly” contributing money to influence U.S. elections. That means no campaign donations, no donations to super PACs and no funding of political advertisements.

But campaign finance law is not as clear for U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies as it is for individuals.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., is among those concerned about foreign-controlled corporations “exploiting loopholes in existing law” to influence U.S. elections. He calls the practice a “direct threat to our democracy.”

“You can bet that wholly owned subsidiaries of foreign commercial entities have an agenda when they spend millions to sway the outcome of an election,” Whitehouse told the Center for Public Integrity in a statement. “And you can bet that agenda is not promoting the interests of middle-class American voters.”

OdysseyRe’s donation “raises some legal red flags,” says Paul S. Ryan, an attorney at the Campaign Legal Center.

(For the full report from the Center for Public Integrity, click here.)

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