By BEN FREEMAN
Fans of protecting American democracy from unlimited foreign money can rejoice, as Monday morning the Supreme Court affirmed a lower court decision to maintain a ban on political contributions by foreign nationals. Moreover, their affirmation is more than a dismissal of the case—it’s a precedent. “In other words, by today’s order, the Supreme Court agreed that the lower court got it right,” as Rick Hasen wrote on his Election Law blog.
In the case, Bluman v. Federal Election Commission (FEC), the plaintiffs and those who supported them, like the Institute for Justice’s Paul Sherman, used the Citizens United decision that money equals speech in politics to argue that it was a violation of the first amendment to bar foreign nationals from making campaign contributions.
As I wrote on POGO’s blog and in the New York Times, these arguments ignore a number of Supreme court precedents, which unequivocally state that certain activities of foreign nationals can be restricted because “the right to govern is reserved to citizens.” Much more importantly, they ignore the threat legalization of foreign national contributions would pose to American democracy. Politicians respond disproportionately to the interests of those who finance their campaigns. Thus, Bluman and his advocates would have created a system with politicians beholden to those whose interests were as foreign as their money. American citizens, meanwhile, would have been left with a government that was not for, of, or by them.
But, with the Supreme Court standing up for American democracy and voters, this story has a happy ending. At a time when confidence in government is at historic lows, voters today can applaud a judicial branch that protected them from undue foreign influence.
Ben Freeman is a POGO National Security Fellow.
Image via Kurt Magoon.