Foreign Donors Use Non-Profits To Influence Politicians, Experts Warn
A panel chock-full of political whistleblowers met Thursday morning at a Federal Election Commission forum held at the agency’s headquarters in D.C. to discuss the dangers of “foreign money” making its way into the hands of politicians.
Disclosure has been a central issue this election cycle after reports surfaced showing that The Clinton Foundation had received millions from foreign governments while Hillary Clinton was at the State Department.
The panel members, including Norman J. Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, Melissa Yeager of the Sunlight Foundation, Shelia Krumholz of the Center for Responsive Politics and John Pudner of Take Back Our Republic, all seemed to agree that lack of disclosure casts a major shadow on campaign finance law.
Single-candidate non-profits like The Clinton Foundation have been on the rise. These groups can receive unlimited donations or “dark money” without disclosing the identity of the donors to the FEC.
“Dark money totaled $300 million in 2016. We could see more than $500 million this year,” said Krumholz.
The largest issue, added Krumholz, is that foreign donors seeking to shape elections can contribute to these non-profits secretly, by not being required to disclose their identities.
Another major roadblock in campaign finance law is simply the failure of government in regulating these disclosure loopholes, said Ornstein.
“The Court ruled 8-1, we should have disclosure, and we haven’t seen it play out,” noted Ornstein, “Brace yourselves for something worse than what we’re seeing.”
Ornstein added that corporations have financial interests that don’t always intersect with the concerns of Americans.
“Anybody who believes a giant foreign company isn’t listening to what its overseers are saying is far too naive for me.”
Conservative John Pudner argued that “closing off doors is key,” suggesting that non-profits should be required to provide evidence that the donated money is not foreign.
“There is no explicit right to make anonymous political contributions,” added Melissa Yeager, “the American public is clearly exhausted in the influence of money.”