Proposed Legislation Would Ban Foreign Intervention In Local Ballot Initiatives


Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) authored legislation Wednesday that would prohibit foreign nationals from donating to local referenda and ballot initiatives, just months after federal regulators said the practice was permissible. 

The Stop Foreign Interference in Ballot Measures Act, as reported by Axios, “would amend the prohibition on foreign national donations to U.S. political campaigns to include state and local ballot initiatives.”

“Gillibrand’s bill would close what good government advocates call a glaring loophole in federal election laws allowing foreign nationals to bankroll efforts to reshape state and local laws,” the outlet added. 

The bill, which is only two pages, amends the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971’s definition of election to include state or local ballot initiatives. Under the current law, which excluded such referenda, the Federal Election Commission ruled over the summer that bans on donations to domestic political campaigns did not apply to ballot committees. 

“The FEC’s ruling that foreign donors can fund U.S. ballot measure campaigns is chilling,” Gillibrand said. “They shouldn’t have a say in our laws. I’m joining @RepKatiePorter to introduce a bill to close this loophole and stop foreign donors from influencing our democracy.”

 Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said that he plans to introduce his own legislation closing the loophole. “Foreign nationals should not be able to engage in America’s democratic process,” said the Florida Republican. “We must do everything we can to protect the votes of American citizens.”

“It is illegal for foreign nationals to donate to political candidates, parties, and committees,” said Rubio in a statement Wednesday. “I will soon introduce legislation to extend that commonsense protection of our political process to ballot initiatives and other referendums.”

The proposed legislation comes on the heels of an Axios report detailing a ruling by the FEC which allowed foreign nationals to contribute to ballot initiatives. As The Daily Wire previously reported: 

The decision came on the heels of a controversial case in Montana over hard rock mining in 2018. During a citizen-generated effort to ban the process, proponents of the initiative argued that a Canadian company shouldn’t have been allowed to give money to opponents of the measure. The Canadian company was a subsidiary of Sandfire Resources, an Australian firm. 

In the 4-2 decision, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) “dismisses the allegations that Sandfire and Sandfire NL violated” U.S. law “by making prohibited foreign national donations.”

While the Commission noted that foreign funding had been given to the opposition to the hard rock mining ban, it said that the ballot measure was not an election. 

“Under these circumstances and consistent with the relevant court and agency precedents construing the foreign national prohibition, the Commission declines to further pursue this matter,” the Commission explained. 

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