Enforcing Foreign Funding Prohibitions
American elections should be decided by Americans. And yet, Russian sponsored dark money superPACs spent millions to help their favorite candidate in the last presidential election.
Although we don’t need a constitutional amendment to make that illegal, foreign spending on campaigns already is, there is no effective way to stop it today.
Because our election laws allow unlimited independent spending on advertisements for candidates, foreign social media ads are just more noise from the crowd of disembodied voices. Those Russian financed messages were carefully crafted to seem like they came from any other superPAC or everyday American conversation. It is impossible to uninvent the technologies that made them effective and anonymous.
Worse yet, foreign funding will continue finding its way into domestic superPACs under layers of shell organizations, third parties and blending to disguise their origins. No matter how many election transparency laws we pass, the foreign financed invasion of the American political debate will only get worse if we continue to allow unlimited funding of political advertising.
But CFR28 was designed to anticipate this. It will quiet the noise from ALL big money sponsors, both foreign and domestic, thus leaving no room for international power brokers, even when they believe they are beyond the reach of American law. All paid social media trolls, targeted emails and polished Web pages (costing above the CFR28 contribution limit) about candidates will be illegal. There will simply be no crowd of superPACs to give foreign sponsors cover. The remaining noise will be the distilled democratic chaos of citizen debate.
But CFR28 will also restore a sense ethical limits for our leader as well.
Our candidates have grown accustomed to their arrangements with American special interests who expect something in return for big donations. Coal companies want relaxed air quality standards, private prisons favor harsher penalties for drug possession, lenders want to keep all the gotchas in small print, drug companies don’t like opioid prescription limits... Talking to them and accepting their help is not illegal, as long as the deals are implied.
But making those phone calls is unsavory, and absolutely required from every politician today; Republican or Democrat. It has debased their sense of morality.
But when big money foreign sponsors call, they mostly just want a relationship. If they talk issues, they’re abstract to district voters; like limiting NATO expansion, sanctions relief for a few Russian oligarchs, Ukraine sovereignty. What’s the harm of a little conversation for some easy electioneering help? Yep it’s illegal, but is it really worse than calling coal and drug companies? And since the Federal Elections Commission rarely enforces election laws pertaining to American special interests (like illegal coordination with superPACs, transparency requirements, etc.), why sweat it?
But if our elections are influenced by foreign powers, isn’t American democracy a fiction?
Some of the special interests that now own our leaders are foreign tyrants. Let’s make owning our leaders illegal for everyone.
Michael J. Kyvik