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The Voter’s Speakeasy featuring unbiased reporting and insight into life at Vote Smart from our staff, interns, and volunteers.

Foreign Influence in American Government

2010 November 01 - mark

Recently, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota and Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona addressed the issue of foreign influence within the United States government and the election process.

On October 5th, Senator Franken wrote a letter to Matthew S. Peterson, Chairman of the Federal Election Commission, in which he wrote, "I am profoundly concerned by recent reports that foreign corporations are indirectly spending significant sums to influence American elections through third-party groups, including 501(c)(6) trade organizations. I am writing to ask that you investigate these claims, enforce existing laws and regulations prohibiting foreign spending in American elections…" According the IRS website, "Section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code provides for the exemption of business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, boards of trade, and professional football leagues, which are not organized for profit and no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual." Franken's letter stems from whether certain 501(c)(6) organizations have taken foreign money, and then in turn have used that money to influence elections.

Governor Brewer in a press release expressed "her opposition to foreign countries' participation in the U.S. Department of Justice's challenge to SB 1070 at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals." SB 1070 is the state of Arizona's well-known immigration bill. According to Governor Brewer's press release "Mexico and 10 other foreign governments have asked the court to participate in the appeal by filing an amicus brief ...

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