Chinese Money Flowing Into U.S. Elections Highlights Importance of Disclosure and FEC Enforcement

Aug 10, 2016
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CLC Files Complaint After Chinese Citizens Helped Make $1.3 Million in Illegal Contributions to Super PAC

Following reports that Chinese citizens helped pump $1.3 million into the super PAC supporting former presidential candidate Jeb Bush, the Campaign Legal Center today filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, calling for a full investigation and enforcement of the law that bans foreign nationals from spending on U.S. elections.

“These facts indicate that Citizens United made it easier for foreign money to flow into U.S. elections through corporations,” said Brendan Fischer, associate counsel for the Campaign Legal Center. “This example also makes clear that disclosure is more important than ever. Because these particular donations were disclosed, journalists were able to uncover the violations. But we can’t be sure how many other foreign nationals have pumped money into our elections through undisclosed donations. Americans not only have the right to know who is influencing elections, but the FEC needs this information in order to enforce the laws protecting the integrity of our democracy.”

Last week, The Intercept reported how a U.S. corporation, American Pacific International Capital, Inc. (APIC), controlled by Chinese citizens living in Singapore, gave $1.3 million to Right to Rise, a Jeb Bush super PAC. The FEC has only allowed foreign-owned U.S. companies to make contributions if the foreign owners or board members are not involved in the decision making process, yet reporting in The Intercept revealed that APIC’s Chinese owners approved the contribution to Right to Rise USA – a clear violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act.   

“Current FEC rules allowing foreign-owned U.S. subsidiaries to spend in our elections, as long as citizens control the contributions, are clearly inadequate to prevent foreign influence,” said Larry Noble, general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center. “Yet the evidence shows that even those lax rules were violated here. The FEC should not only enforce its existing regulations but also take action to address how those rules are insufficient after Citizens United to protect against foreign money coming into U.S. elections.” 

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