White House takes on Citizens United decision


Norm Eisen, Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform, wrote a White House blog entry to make the argument that the recent SCOTUS decision on campaign finance opens the door for foreign-owned corporations to spend heavily in an effort to influence elections in the US.

“We noted with interest reports that subsidiaries of foreign corporations from across the globe have launched a lobbying campaign in Washington to protect their newfound power to influence American elections under the Citizens United case,” said Eisen.  “About 160 of these U.S. subsidiaries of foreign-owned or controlled corporations are involved in a lobbying group trying to stop President Obama and Congress from enacting limits on their spending in political campaigns. Worse still, the lobbyist leading the effort refused to disclose all the companies involved in the lobbying campaign. But it appears that the group of companies has the potential to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to influence American elections.”

Citing an article in the Wall Street journal to confirm the lobbying effort, Eisen continued, “In Citizens United, a narrow 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court overturned a century of law that had barred corporations from using their financial clout to directly interfere with elections. As a result of this decision, American corporations owned in whole or in part by foreign companies—and even by foreign governments—are no longer restricted from making expenditures to elect or defeat federal candidates.”

Eisen said that some are arguing that the case does not open the doors to foreigners, but pointed out that the four dissenting justices argued that it does just that, and that it was also “openly acknowledged” by both the Court majority and Citizens United’s own lawyer.

According to Eisen, the White House is recommending the following legislative prescriptions to remedy the situation.

* Establish carefully-tailored, low-dollar limits on the contributions lobbyists may bundle or make to candidates for federal office;

* Toughen lobbyist disclosure rules so that – like the voluntary step the President has taken to disclose visitors to the White House – lobbyists must disclose the details of every lobbying contact, including what the meeting was about;

* Close the loophole that allows foreign agent lobbyists to avoid full disclosure of their activities;

* Fully disclose all earmark requests on a comprehensive, bipartisan, state-of-the-art disclosure database that allows Americans to examine the details of every proposed request.