Mr. MCCONNELL. Madam President, last night, the President spoke about many things. I would like to focus for a moment on one of them: his comments related to the Supreme Court's recent decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. This is an issue to which I have devoted a great deal of time over the years, so I think it is important to set the record straight as to what the court did and did not do in this very important, and in my view, correct ruling.
Here's what the President said:
Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests--including foreign corporations--to spend without limit in our elections.
That is what the President said last night.
Here is why he is wrong.
According to title 2 of U.S.C. Section 441e:
Foreign nationals, specifically defined to include foreign corporations, are prohibited from ``directly or indirectly'' making ``a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State or local election.''
The statute goes on to prohibit foreign corporations from making any contribution or donation to any committee of any political party. Foreign corporations are also prohibited from making any ``expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication.''
None of these prohibitions were at issue in the Citizens United case.
In other words, foreign corporations were prohibited from participating in U.S. elections before the Citizens United decisions and they still are--unambiguously.
Let me make that perfectly clear: Citizens United did not change one thing in current law regarding the prohibition on foreign corporations engaging in U.S. elections. That law remains unchanged.
Further, the Federal Election Commission whom has been very clear in defining this what this prohibition means.
Here's what the FEC's regulation states:
A foreign national shall not direct, dictate, control, or directly or indirectly participate in the decision making process of any person, such as a corporation, labor organization, political committee, or political organization with regard to such person's Federal or non-Federal election-related activities, such as decisions concerning the making of contributions, donations, expenditures, or disbursements in connection with elections for any Federal, State, or local office or decisions concerning the administration of a political committee.
So the law on this matter is crystal clear. Contrary to what the President, and some of his surrogates in Congress say, foreign persons, corporations, partnerships, associations, organizations or other combination of persons are strictly prohibited from any participation in U.S. elections, just as they were prohibited before the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision.
I have explained what the ruling did not do. Now let me explain what the ruling did do.
The Court ruled unconstitutional sections of Federal law that barred corporations and unions from spending their own money to express their views about issues and candidates.
This was the right decision because democracy depends upon free speech, not just for some but for all. As Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, concluded:
Under our law and our tradition it seems stranger than fiction for our Government to make political speech a crime.
In Citizens United the Court ended the suppression of corporate and union speech.
Another way to look at it is prior to Citizens United, if you were a corporation that owned a media company you could say anything you wanted to 365 days a year without government interference. But if you were a corporation or union that did not own a media company, you couldn't. All this decision did was to level the playing field and strike an important blow for the first amendment and for free speech in our country, a decision that should be applauded by all, but at the very least not misinterpreted.