Foreign Contributions

[ Posted Tuesday, November 27th, 2007 – 14:48 UTC ]

While on vacation last week, I chanced upon an article in the Irish Times that I found interesting, if merely for the fact that it's the type of thing Americans just aren't going to hear about from our own mainstream media. It was a story about Bill Clinton being in Dublin for a fundraiser for his wife's presidential campaign.

From the article [Note for the culturally challenged: "Paddy" = an Irish person, "Yank" = an American]:

"The place was awash with Paddies," said one attendee. "You were left wondering where were all the Yanks."

. . .

Although only US citizens and Green Card holders are allowed to contribute to election campaign funds, Hillary Clinton's Irish supporters could attend the Dublin event if US citizens bought tickets on their behalf.

The invite stipulated that a copy of the donor's US passport or Green Card should accompany the contribution and RSVP form for the €1,600 a head event.

€1,600 is about $2,350 (more on that subject tomorrow).

[Before I begin, let me state that I am not jumping on Bill, or even Hillary's campaign in general here. I strongly suspect that all the candidates who campaign overseas (which is most of them) do exactly the same thing, so I do not mean to single out the Clinton campaign for doing so.]

Now, this can be read a number of ways. Obviously, the letter of the law states that foreigners cannot contribute to American political campaigns. Which the Clinton people are scrupulously documenting by requiring a passport or green card photocopy to get a ticket (they -- and other campaigns -- have already been burned by dubious contributions already this year, so it's no wonder they're being careful). But equally as obviously, if you are a wealthy Irishman with an American friend and a penchant to see Bill speak, all you have to do is hand your American pal the money and have him hand you the invitation when he gets it. From the Irish Times article, it appears quite a few did exactly that.

Our prohibition on foreigners giving money to American political campaigns makes a certain degree of sense, or at least it would if we also had a law that stated the American government couldn't meddle in other countries' elections with large sums of money (which we do all the time -- see the entire history of the CIA for details).


But seriously, not allowing foreign contributions to the American political scene seems to be a worthy goal, at least on the face of it. But one has to wonder how hard it truly is for a foreigner to surreptitiously donate to a campaign if it's so out in the open that the local foreign press runs a story on it (the headline to the story was "Locals outnumber Americans as Bill Clinton Comes to town").

I know there are more egregious abuses of campaign finance laws than this example. I know this is relatively small potatoes. But I thought it was worth sharing, since I also know nobody else in the American media will have noticed it.


-- Chris Weigant


One Comment on “Foreign Contributions”

  1. [1] 
    fstanley wrote:

    I think the principle of not influencing other countries elections by financing candidates with foreign funds is good. The US has a record of doing just that in many countries and has always maintained a "do what I say not what I do" attitude.

    In this instance I think the locals were more interested in the thrill of meeting Bill Clinton than of donating to Hilary Clinton's campaign chest.


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