Last week, the 5–4 Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision invalidated a sixty-three year-old ban on corporate money in federal elections. The ruling gives corporations essentially the same rights as individuals in their ability to spend freely on political advertising, even if those advertisements explicitly advocate the election or defeat of a federal candidate. One consequence of this decision is that foreign corporations with U.S.-subsidiaries are likely to be able to now spend unlimited amounts on American elections.
Congressional Democrats, led by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), are drafting legislation to curb the influence of foreign corporations and foreign governments following the decision. However, the National Journal reported today that corporate lobbyists representing foreign corporations are already organizing to defeat such a proposal. The Organization for International Investment, a trade group representing foreign banks, oil companies, and other foreign corporations operating in the United States, “lashed out” at Van Hollen’s proposals. “The concern over foreign influence in our political system is a red herring,” said Nancy McLernon, the head of OFII.
McLernon — who previously worked for Citizens for a Sound Economy, a stealth “grassroots” corporate lobbying group now known as Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks — is wrong to assert that the danger of foreign lobbying is simply a distraction. For instance, Saudi Arabia has already signaled that the progressive effort to build a clean energy American economy is its “biggest threat”:
Saudi Arabia’s economy depends on oil exports so stands to be one of the biggest losers in any pact that curbs oil demand by penalizing carbon emissions. “It’s one of the biggest threats that we are facing,” said Muhammed al-Sabban, head of the Saudi delegation to U.N. talks on climate change and a senior economic adviser to the Saudi oil ministry. […] Climate talks posed a bigger threat, Sabban said, and subsidies for the development of renewable energy were distorting market economics in the sector, he said.
Presumably because of the Citizens United ruling, Saudi Arabian-owned subsidiaries operating in the United States can now spend unlimited amounts advocating the defeat of candidates who support clean energy legislation. According to a ThinkProgress investigation, foreign-oil backed lobbyists in America are already instigating efforts to kill clean energy legislation. Fortunately, President Obama is expected to address the issue of foreign corporations influencing American elections in his State of the Union address tonight.