Elections and "Citizens United"
In a 5-4 ruling on January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court overturned longstanding provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act. This ruling, dubbed Citizens United, will allow corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on American elections, effectively nullifying Minnesota's prohibition on corporate spending on elections-a 20 year-old standard-and opening a door for foreign governments to interfere with American democracy.
Since 1974, federal law has banned foreign companies from giving or spending in American elections. Nothing in our current laws, however, explicitly prohibits foreign companies from creating American subsidiaries or getting control of American companies and using them to flood the airwaves in support of their preferred candidates. The Citizens United ruling gives companies unlimited power to do that - and does not distinguish between American companies and companies that are owned or controlled by foreign interests.
That's why Senator Franken introduced the American Elections Act of 2010 to keep foreign interests out of American elections. Senator Franken's bill will forbid election contributions and spending by corporations that are controlled or highly influenced by foreign nationals, require all corporations to certify that they comply with these regulations, and require companies to disclose how much of their company is controlled by foreign nationals when they do run a campaign ad. More recently, Senator Franken called on the Federal Election Commission to investigate the potential use of foreign money in American elections by 501(c)(6) trade groups--and to reexamine all of its regulations and policies to make sure that they are doing everything possible to stop foreign influence.
Senator Franken also co-sponsored Senator Chuck Schumer's (D-N.Y.) Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act. The legislation, which incorporates core provisions of the American Elections Act, would bar foreign-controlled corporations, government contractors and companies that have received government assistance from making political expenditures. It would also require corporations, unions, and other organizations that make political expenditures to disclose their donors and stand by their ads.
Both pieces of legislation will greatly reduce the serious consequences that could result from this Supreme Court ruling.