Free Speech For People, joined by Peter J. Brann of the Maine law firm Brann & Isaacson, filed an amicus brief today in defense of Maine’s new law prohibiting foreign government influence in state and local elections. In November 2023, Maine voters passed by a resounding margin (86%) a ballot measure prohibiting foreign government-influenced corporations from unlimited spending in elections. FSFP files its amicus brief in opposition to corporations, press organizations, and some voters who, in December 2023, filed litigation asking a federal court to enjoin the law. 

The brief disputes main concerns raised by the challengers regarding the provision’s legality and the claimed infringement on rights. First, the brief demonstrates that Maine has a firmly established “compelling interest in limiting the participation of foreign citizens in activities of American democratic self-government,” and that this interest justifies laws prohibiting any money from foreign nationals– especially foreign governments– from entering U.S. elections, even indirectly.

Second, FSFP writes why the law is consistent with Supreme Court precedent, including Citizens United. Citizens United considers corporations as “associations of citizens” with a constitutional right to unlimited political spending. But corporations with foreign government investors are definitionally not “associations of citizens” and have no vested right to influence Maine elections.

And third, the brief argues that the public’s firmly established right to limit foreign election spending nullifies all other First Amendment claims that seek to circumvent the clear mandate against foreign influence underpinning Maine’s new election protection. 

The challenged provision bans corporate political spending from foreign government-influenced corporations, defined as those with a foreign government investor owning 5% or more of corporate stock – a threshold at which a foreign government can influence corporate governance and decisions. 

“Maine voters have made exceptionally clear that they don’t want foreign governments funneling unlimited money into their elections,” says Amira Mattar, Counsel at Free Speech for People. “These voters have a right to ensure that foreign influenced corporations, especially those with foreign government investors, do not outmaneuver the State’s clear interest in ensuring Maine is run by and for the people.” 

Maine follows other cities and states which have passed similar laws. Last year, Minnesota became the first state to ban foreign-influenced corporate spending, which FSFP also helped to defend as amicus curiae.

Read the full amicus brief here