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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: January 31, 2018 02:54 PM
From: Senator Jay Costa
To: All Senate members
Subject: Preventing Foreign Corporate Influence on State and Local Elections
In the near future, I intend to introduce legislation to address an alarming loophole in federal and state election law allowing foreign influence in our state elections.

Recent reports regarding foreign interference in the 2016 election through ads purchased on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other platforms demonstrate just how easy it is for a foreign government or corporation to influence the U.S. election system. As countless federal lawmakers and election officials closely studying this issue have put it, 'a major foreign power infiltrated U.S. elections with the specific goal of sowing conflict and distrust among American voters with their own government.' These lawmakers and election officials are not talking about the winners and losers of the 2016 election, they are talking about a breach of national security.

Federal campaign finance law prohibits foreign nationals from making contributions or expenditures in U.S. elections – at the federal, state and local level. Shockingly, however, this does not prohibit corporations that are registered in the U.S., but still have foreign ownership, from making contributions to political committees that make only independent expenditures (“super PACs”) that are then spent on state and local elections.

What’s more, the decision in Citizens United makes it nearly impossible to discern whether a contributing corporation is significantly owned by a foreign national by making it very difficult to track the corporation making the contribution through a super PAC, let alone its ownership.

This problem requires an amendment to our Election Code to ban foreign influence in our elections and require that donations are made in a transparent way. My legislation would prohibit foreign-influenced corporations – those with a foreign owner holding at least 5% ownership or foreign owners holding at least 20% ownership – from making independent expenditures, electioneering communication expenditures or contributions to super PACs to spend in state and local elections in Pennsylvania. It would require the CEO of any corporation making such an independent expenditure to file a statement certifying that it is not a foreign-influenced corporation.

State and local elections are the foundation of federal elections. Foreign money spent for the purpose of infiltrating or influencing an election, whether it be federal or local, affects the very functioning of American democracy at all levels.

Please join me in sponsoring this legislation and removing foreign interference in our state and local elections.

Introduced as SB1068