If passed in the Assembly and signed into law, New York would be the first state to ban multinational corporate money in elections.

ALBANY, NY (June 3, 2021) – The New York State Senate today passed, with bipartisan support, the Democracy Preservation Act (S1126), a bill designed to end the influence of foreign corporate money in statewide elections.

The legislation, introduced by Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris, would bar corporations with partial foreign ownership from contributing to candidates, parties, or committees (including super PACs) or from engaging in their own direct election spending. A companion bill, A7458, has been introduced in the State Assembly by Assemblymember Latrice Walker of Brooklyn.

Across the country, companies with partial foreign ownership, like Amazon, have used their money to influence the outcome of elections and political agendas in their favor. The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United created a loophole for foreign interests to acquire stakes in U.S. corporations and then use that leverage to influence or control the corporation’s political activity, including campaign contributions, contributions to super PACs, and independent expenditures.

Multinational corporations affected by the Democracy Preservation Act are those owned 1% by one foreign investor, or 5% by multiple foreign investors. These thresholds reflect levels of ownership that are widely agreed (including by entities such as the Business Roundtable) to be high enough to influence corporate governance.

“Unlimited corporate expenditures have a pernicious effect on our elections and the Democracy Preservation Act will make substantial inroads in fighting the influence of big corporations,” says Senator Gianaris. “Enactment of this bill would ensure that New York’s elections are decided by its people, not by big corporations.”

The Democracy Preservation Act cites inspiration from similar legislation passed in Seattle in 2020. Free Speech For People, a national non-profit public interest organization founded on the day of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, helped to draft the Seattle ordinance. Six additional states (Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Oregon) are considering similar bans.

“Corporate executives know where their bread is buttered. This bill addresses the threat to New York’s democratic self-government posed by corporate political spending by partly foreign-owned corporations,” says Free Speech For People Legal Director Ron Fein.

“The Democracy Preservation Act is a bold reform in the fight to put democracy back in the hands of the people where it belongs,” says Alexandra Flores-Quilty, Campaign Director at Free Speech For People. “We applaud the New York State Senate for passing this bill and we urge the New York Assembly to do so as well and make New York the first state in the country to enact this model law.”

Free Speech For People is working in partnership with the Center For American Progress and Empire State Indivisible to support the Democracy Preservation Act.