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Foreign Nationals, Spending Soon in an Election Near You?

Americans seem a lot quicker to be roused by the prospect of foreign nationals spending money in U.S. elections than, say, big domestic corporations, but why can’t foreigners spend like the rest of us? Loyola Law School Professor Rick Hasen argued the other week that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision effectively made the case for foreign spending by stating that the identity of the speaker didn’t matter and that more speech was always good for democracy. Now two plaintiffs, both of whom lawfully live and work in the U.S. but aren’t citizens, are suing for the right to add a little political speech to the mix themselves.

The suit, filed earlier this week in Washington federal district court against the Federal Election Commission, challenges the constitutionality of the ban on foreign nationals making political contributions and independent expenditures in the U.S, and the two Canadian plaintiffs, Benjamin Bluman and Dr. Asenath Steiman, make a compelling couple:

Bluman, a citizen of Canada who recently graduated from Harvard Law School, is authorized to live and work in the United States until November 2012. Bluman, who anticipates his admission into the New York City bar next month, is “passionate … about protecting the environment, recognizing same-sex marriage and ensuring that ‘net neutrality’ is enshrined into law,” according to the suit.

The suit said Bluman wants to contribute $100 to Diane Savino, a Democratic state senator in New York who is a proponent of same-sex marriage. Bluman also wants to print and distribute flyers in the support of the re-election of President Barack Obama.

Steiman, a member of the American Medical Association, is a dual citizen of Canada and Israel. She is fulfilling her medical residency at Beth Israel Medical Center, in New York. Steiman was a member of the Conservative Party in Canada. The suit filed against the FEC said Steiman wants to prevent a “government-takeover of the health-care system in the United States.”

According to the suit, Steiman wants to contribute $100 to Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a critic of the Obama administration’s push for healthcare reform. And Steiman also wants to contribute to the campaign of the Republican nominee to challenge Obama, in the event he runs for a second term.

As an added bonus, Hasen notes that the plaintiffs have asked for a three-judge court, which would allow them to appeal directly to the Supreme Court.

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