On December 14, 2021, Congressman Jamie Raskin introduced a bill (HR 6283) to bar multinational corporations from spending money to influence U.S. elections. The bill is based on model legislation drafted by Free Speech For People.


The Supreme Court’s January 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC sanctioned political spending by corporate entities as political speech protected by the First Amendment on the claim that corporations are “associations of citizens.” As many major corporations are owned in substantial part by foreign shareholders, they can now circumvent federal law which explicitly prohibits foreign nationals from making any political expenditures in U.S. elections.

Across the country, multinational corporations have used their money to influence the outcome of elections and to advance political agendas in their favor. Amazon, for example, contributed $1.5 million to Seattle’s Chamber of Commerce super PAC to sway City Council elections in 2019. In January 2020, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to institute limits on foreign-influenced corporations’ political spending, thereby banning future electoral influence by Amazon.

On December 14, 2021, Congressman Jamie Raskin introduced a bill (HR 6283) to address a major loophole created by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and bar multinational corporations like Amazon, Meta (formerly Facebook), Uber, and Airbnb from spending money to influence U.S. elections. This ordinance builds on Free Speech For People’s work developing similar legislation in Seattle, WA (along with partner Fix Democracy First), which passed on January 13, 2020.

The Bill

The bill (HR 6283) would prohibit corporations with partial foreign ownership from contributing to candidates, parties, or committees (including super PACs) or from engaging in their own direct election spending. Partial foreign ownership is defined as any business that meets one of the following conditions:

  • A foreign owner holds, owns, controls, or has beneficial ownership of one percent or more of the business;

  • Multiple foreign owners hold, own, control, or have beneficial ownership of five percent or more of the business;

  • A foreign owner participates directly or indirectly in the business entity’s decision making process with respect to political activities

In a December 14, 2021 press release, Free Speech For People’s Legal Director, Ron Fein, said, “The American people understand that foreign influence, through any form, has no place in our elections. Concealing such influence via corporate spending presents serious harm to our democracy.”

 “We applaud Congressman Raskin for introducing this critical legislation in the defense of our democracy and the fundamental principles of American self-government.” – John Bonifaz, FSFP’s Co-Founder and President

“Foreign-influenced corporations spend millions of dollars in our elections. Their dollars overwhelm the voices and votes of Americans. This poses a critical threat to the integrity of our elections and democracy. Congressman Raskin’s legislation will help put elections back into the hands of voters by banning foreign-influenced corporations from political spending.” – Alexandra Flores-Quilty, FSFP’s Campaign Director

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Ending Foreign-Influenced Corporate Spending in U.S. Elections

by Michael Sozan

A new report from the Center for American Progress, written by senior fellow Michael Sozan, highlights the problem of political spending by foreign-influenced corporations. The report—which cites Free Speech For People’s pioneering legislative work in places like Seattle, St. Petersburg, and Massachusetts—proposes banning political spending by partially-foreign-owned corporations, using the same thresholds for foreign ownership as the Seattle and Massachusetts legislation that we helped develop.

Quantifying Foreign Institutional Block Ownership at Publicly Traded 
U.S. Corporations

by John C. Coates, Ron Fein, Kevin Crenny and L. Vivian Dong

FSFP Coates-Fein-Crenny-Dong PNG

Since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision invalidated restrictions on corporate political spending, considerable public and policymaker interest has developed in the potential for U.S. elections to be

influenced by foreign interests through U.S. corporations. On the one hand, existing federal law (the Federal Election Campaign Act) already prohibits political spending in federal, state, or local elections by corporations that are incorporated outside the U.S., or which have their principal place of business abroad. On the other hand, current law still allows substantial avenues for foreign influence over corporate political spending by U.S.-incorporated and -based corporations.

Lawmakers in Congress and members of the Federal Election Commission have expressed interest in addressing this phenomenon. As of yet, federal reform proposals have failed to advance. A more likely near-term prospect for new policy measures is at the state and local level. Local governments (notably in St. Petersburg, Florida) are now contemplating measures to address this concern.

This paper focuses on ownership of significant blocks of stock as a potential mechanism for foreign influence over corporate political spending. We found that roughly one in eleven (9%) companies in the S&P 500 has one or more foreign institutions each owning five percent or more blocks of stock, nine have foreign institutions with ten percent or more blocks, five have a foreign institution with more than fifteen percent, and three have foreign institutions with more than 20% blocks. Three firms have multiple foreign institutional blockholders. This is the first recent empirical analysis of the level of foreign institutional blockholder ownership of publicly traded corporations.

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The SpeechNow Case and the Real World of Campaign Finance

by Stephen R. Weissman Ph.D.

FSFP Weissman Report final 10-24-16

In the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s SpeechNow decision, which created super PACs, the court theorized that contributions to so-called “independent expenditure committees” could not possibly result in corruption. In the real political world, however, as this study shows, top donors to super PACs and other independent spenders are not only contributing to these groups. They are simultaneously giving directly to the very candidates who benefit from their contributions to independent spending. The typical two-track donor supports multiple candidates in this fashion.

Thus, while independent spendinggroups are legally restrained from coordinating with their beneficiaries, donors to such groups are legally permitted to financially coordinate with these same candidates within certain contribution limits. When donors amplify their legally limited direct contributions to candidates with unlimited indirect support via independent spending groups, an “anti-corruption interest in limiting contributions to an independent expenditure group” certainly arises. These unlimited contributions intensify the dangers of quid pro quo corruption and its appearance that contribution limits were established to prevent.

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The SpeechNow Case and the Real World of Campaign Finance: Undermining Federal Limits on Contributions to Political Parties Pt. II

by Stephen R. Weissman Ph.D.

This report explores the top 100 individual and 50 organizational donors to independent groups in the 2012 and 2014 elections. It focuses on those who gave to one or more of the six official national party committees and also contributed to unofficial party-linked Super PACs active in the same election(s).

There are federal limits on how much a donor can give to an official party committee per year, but following the SpeechNow ruling, there are no set limits on contributions to party-linked super PACs. For example, in 2014, the maximum a donor could give to a party committee per year was $32,400; assuming a donor who gave to all three committees of one party, that’s $97,200 to party committees. Under federal law, $97,201 would be illegal—too high a risk of quid pro quo corruption—but that same donor can give millions to party-linked super PACs. In essence, donors can multiply their legal direct party contributions by giving to party-linked super PACs at levels far beyond what Congress has determined is necessary (and the Supreme Court has so far upheld) to protect against corruption. This pattern of giving completely undermines the limits on contributions to parties.

he large donors surveyed in this study made very substantial contributions to their preferred party committees. The size of these contributions, while within legal limits, assured that these donors would be noticed by party fundraisers, many of whom were themselves candidates and elected officials. When these donors simultaneously embellished their financing by massively subsidizing independent Super PACs linked to the same parties in the same elections, they intensified the danger of corruption and its appearance.

By ignoring such political realities, the SpeechNow decision has helped undermine federal contribution limits, the primary means of federal regulation of campaign financing.

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