That’s the warning coming today from the folks at the Center for Public Integrity, who caution that the recent High Court decision empowering corporations to spend unlimited sums on federal election ads could also have the unintended consequence of ending the ban on foreigners buying influence over U.S. elections. Some foreign companies, the authors write, are owned by foreign governments and also have U.S. subsidiaries. The result?
One prominent example is CITGO Petroleum Company — once the American-born Cities Services Company, but purchased in 1990 by the Venezuelan government-owned Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. The Citizens United ruling could conceivably allow Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has sharply criticized both of the past two U.S. presidents, to spend government funds to defeat an American political candidate, just by having CITGO buy TV ads bashing his target.
And it’s not just CPI that’s concerned about that possibility.
In his dissent in Citizens United, Justice John Paul Stevens cautioned that the decision “would appear to afford the same protection to multinational corporations controlled by foreigners as to individual Americans.”
And here we were worried that the biggest threats to American democracy, post-decision, were AT&T and Goldman Sachs.