Free Speech For People applauds a provision in the newly-proposed Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act (S.5070/H.R.9029), introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Pramila Jayapal, that prohibits political spending by corporations partially owned by foreign investors. The bill follows a model established by Seattle’s Clean Campaigns Ordinance (enacted in January 2020), as well as legislation introduced in several other city and state legislatures, that Free Speech For People helped develop.

The bill contains major reforms to laws regarding public integrity, ethics, conflicts of interest, and the “revolving door”; lobbying; rulemaking; judicial ethics; enforcement; transparency and government records; and campaign finance. Section 721 of the bill, entitled “Banning foreign-owned and partially foreign-owned corporations from spending on United States elections,” implements the model that Free Speech For People developed, with the help of Federal Election Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, Professor Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School, Professor John Coates of Harvard Law School, and Senior Fellow Michael Sozan of the Center for American Progress. 

Like the Seattle law, Section 721 of the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act applies to any corporation or similar entity where a single foreign investor or foreign business owns or controls 1% or more of shares, or multiple foreign investors or foreign businesses own or control 5% or more of shares, or have the power to direct the corporation’s interests or political activities in the United States. Companies that are covered by this definition are prohibited from political spending in U.S. elections. Furthermore, the CEO of any company that spends money on U.S. elections must certify, under penalty of perjury, that the company does not meet this definition of a foreign-influenced corporation.

Free Speech For People began working on fighting political spending by foreign-influenced corporations in 2016. Free Speech For People helped pass a groundbreaking ordinance in 2017 in St. Petersburg, Florida that set the stage for the Seattle legislation, the other legislation pending in cities and states around the country, and the proposed Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act. This model legislation is a major project in our broader work in challenging foreign influence in U.S. elections.