The toxic cure: foreign funds and the Presidency

Now it is official. Unwieldy campaign finance reform (CFR) legislation may have opened Pandora's Box, and made political fundraising abuses, formerly forbidden, into perfectly legal practice. The cure, in other words, may be more toxic than the disease.

Due to a loophole in the 2002 campaign—finance law, 'which was hastily drafted and redrafted while lawmakers haggled over its provisions,' the barn door is being proclaimed open for foreign contributors to rush in and fund advertising in Presidential elections.

According to The Hill newspaper, so—called 527 groups could be free to raise foreign money to fund their advertising campaigns in federal elctions. This is due to a little—noticed, but crucial, omission by the drafters of the campaign—finance law, combined with the effects of the Federal Election Commission's decision not to regulate 527 and other tax—exempt groups. These groups will not fall under campaign spending laws, as long as they have the camouflage of not being controlled by the official campaign staff of the candidates.

According to The Hill, there exists a

question about whether a 527 is forbidden or not from using the foreign—national contribution,' said Larry Noble, a former FEC general counsel who now serves as the executive director of Democracy 21, a campaign—finance watchdog group. 'It's a potential loophole that underscores the problem with the FEC not treating these organizations as political committees.'

Globalization can be a positive force in the economy, but America assuredly does not need to globalize its electoral politics. Congress seems to have blundered into a global—sized loophole, allowing foreigners to buy our elections.

This is part of a troubling trend, some of it entirely legitimate, but nonetheless worrisome. Foreign interests are increasingly buying—into the American polity as powerful actors. During the Clinton Administration, contributions from the Beijing regime had the decency to launder themselves, in tribute to a belief that they were part of an illicit scheme. Thanks to CFR, foisted upon us by Senator McCain and scads of Democrats who posed as the enemies of  'money politics,' such niceties are no longer to be required, or so it is being argued.

It is part of a trend of foreigners and even some Americans seeming to believe that foreigners have a say in our elections. For the past year we have heard John Kerry claim that foreign leaders support his candidacy for President. Among the luminaries who have publicly supported him are: the despotic mass murderer leader of North Korea, Kim Jong—il; the theocratic tyrants of Iran who export terror around the world;  and Mahahathir Mohamad, the former leader of Malaysia addicted to anti—Semitic and anti—American rants. Hans Blix just endorsed John Kerry.

Such foreign electoral support no longer needs to be limited to mere words. In this day and age, very few things have the impact that money does on campaigns. Now foreigners can ante up and become players in the electoral game.

Many moneyed foreign actors have a powerful interest in determining the winner of the next Presidential election. Arab petrodollars may find President Bush's call for democracy and support of Israel worthy of opposition. European elites, are known to loathe the President for his assertiveness, his Texan style, and his unwillingness to be swayed by the prospect of their approval. And there are many less obvious foreign interests in seeing one or another candidate succeed in attaining America' highest office.
 
There is evidence that Middle Eastern money has been used to corrupt international politics, such as the accusations that British and French politicians were bribed by Saddam Hussein to resist American pressure to have him abide by UN Resolutions. The Food for Oil Scandal offers abundant evidence that international diplomats are not above being susceptible to bribes.

Foreign—funded think tanks, such as the Saudi—funded Middle East Institute, have also been a convenient resource for media outlets looking for anti—Bush views among purported independent experts. Former Ambassadors to Arab nations have gone on the petrodollar dole upon leaving office and have been more than willing to proclaim President Bush's support for Israel and ambition to democratize the Middle East foolhardy.
 
However the CFR loophole invites a whole new level of manipulation to occur.

Obviously, tacit cooperation between campaigns and 527 groups will unavoidably occur, despite the fig leaf of organizational boundaries. Campaign staffers and the key personnel of the various 527 groups, current and future, are drawn from the same pool labor: people who have known each other, worked together, and been friends for years. Transfers of personnel from campaigns to 527 groups are frequent. The courts may consider that a de jure 'Chinese Wall' separates these groups but, from the de facto perspective, no such distinctions exist. So far, most of the 527s are anti—Bush, but Republicans are now beginning to actively raise tax exempt money for them.

The potential for abuse is staggering. The Saudis have long been accused of being able to buy off powerful officials with the succor of promised riches when they leave office. The same lucre, multiplied by many nations,  will now be used on the front—end, to support selected candidates for public office. With oil prices at a high due to manipulation among OPEC nations, is there any doubt that a sliver of these billions can have an untoward impact on American politics? Barring a closing of this loophole the only honorable course for the 527s would be to disclose the source of all their funding.

Regrettably, that is an event not likely to occur.

Now it is official. Unwieldy campaign finance reform (CFR) legislation may have opened Pandora's Box, and made political fundraising abuses, formerly forbidden, into perfectly legal practice. The cure, in other words, may be more toxic than the disease.

Due to a loophole in the 2002 campaign—finance law, 'which was hastily drafted and redrafted while lawmakers haggled over its provisions,' the barn door is being proclaimed open for foreign contributors to rush in and fund advertising in Presidential elections.

According to The Hill newspaper, so—called 527 groups could be free to raise foreign money to fund their advertising campaigns in federal elctions. This is due to a little—noticed, but crucial, omission by the drafters of the campaign—finance law, combined with the effects of the Federal Election Commission's decision not to regulate 527 and other tax—exempt groups. These groups will not fall under campaign spending laws, as long as they have the camouflage of not being controlled by the official campaign staff of the candidates.

According to The Hill, there exists a

question about whether a 527 is forbidden or not from using the foreign—national contribution,' said Larry Noble, a former FEC general counsel who now serves as the executive director of Democracy 21, a campaign—finance watchdog group. 'It's a potential loophole that underscores the problem with the FEC not treating these organizations as political committees.'

Globalization can be a positive force in the economy, but America assuredly does not need to globalize its electoral politics. Congress seems to have blundered into a global—sized loophole, allowing foreigners to buy our elections.

This is part of a troubling trend, some of it entirely legitimate, but nonetheless worrisome. Foreign interests are increasingly buying—into the American polity as powerful actors. During the Clinton Administration, contributions from the Beijing regime had the decency to launder themselves, in tribute to a belief that they were part of an illicit scheme. Thanks to CFR, foisted upon us by Senator McCain and scads of Democrats who posed as the enemies of  'money politics,' such niceties are no longer to be required, or so it is being argued.

It is part of a trend of foreigners and even some Americans seeming to believe that foreigners have a say in our elections. For the past year we have heard John Kerry claim that foreign leaders support his candidacy for President. Among the luminaries who have publicly supported him are: the despotic mass murderer leader of North Korea, Kim Jong—il; the theocratic tyrants of Iran who export terror around the world;  and Mahahathir Mohamad, the former leader of Malaysia addicted to anti—Semitic and anti—American rants. Hans Blix just endorsed John Kerry.

Such foreign electoral support no longer needs to be limited to mere words. In this day and age, very few things have the impact that money does on campaigns. Now foreigners can ante up and become players in the electoral game.

Many moneyed foreign actors have a powerful interest in determining the winner of the next Presidential election. Arab petrodollars may find President Bush's call for democracy and support of Israel worthy of opposition. European elites, are known to loathe the President for his assertiveness, his Texan style, and his unwillingness to be swayed by the prospect of their approval. And there are many less obvious foreign interests in seeing one or another candidate succeed in attaining America' highest office.
 
There is evidence that Middle Eastern money has been used to corrupt international politics, such as the accusations that British and French politicians were bribed by Saddam Hussein to resist American pressure to have him abide by UN Resolutions. The Food for Oil Scandal offers abundant evidence that international diplomats are not above being susceptible to bribes.

Foreign—funded think tanks, such as the Saudi—funded Middle East Institute, have also been a convenient resource for media outlets looking for anti—Bush views among purported independent experts. Former Ambassadors to Arab nations have gone on the petrodollar dole upon leaving office and have been more than willing to proclaim President Bush's support for Israel and ambition to democratize the Middle East foolhardy.
 
However the CFR loophole invites a whole new level of manipulation to occur.

Obviously, tacit cooperation between campaigns and 527 groups will unavoidably occur, despite the fig leaf of organizational boundaries. Campaign staffers and the key personnel of the various 527 groups, current and future, are drawn from the same pool labor: people who have known each other, worked together, and been friends for years. Transfers of personnel from campaigns to 527 groups are frequent. The courts may consider that a de jure 'Chinese Wall' separates these groups but, from the de facto perspective, no such distinctions exist. So far, most of the 527s are anti—Bush, but Republicans are now beginning to actively raise tax exempt money for them.

The potential for abuse is staggering. The Saudis have long been accused of being able to buy off powerful officials with the succor of promised riches when they leave office. The same lucre, multiplied by many nations,  will now be used on the front—end, to support selected candidates for public office. With oil prices at a high due to manipulation among OPEC nations, is there any doubt that a sliver of these billions can have an untoward impact on American politics? Barring a closing of this loophole the only honorable course for the 527s would be to disclose the source of all their funding.

Regrettably, that is an event not likely to occur.