Opinion: Could A Foreign Country Buy A U.S. Election?
One of the most insidious features of the so called SuperPACs that were created after the Supreme Court allowed unlimited political donations to outside groups is the lack of disclosure. We have no idea who is giving how much to the groups. It allows donors to hide their money.
It is a simple tenant of democracy that the public should know who is financing our campaigns.
We now have individuals with large overseas business interests making massive, undisclosed donations to entities that are de facto arms of the presidential and congressional campaigns.
Throughout the Republican primaries, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum each had a single billionaire on their sides that effectively allowed them to continue their respective campaigns long beyond when they would have folded without outside backing.
Newt Gingrich’s SuperPAC chief appeared regularly on television during the campaign, in essence serving as the spokesperson for the campaign. Rick Santorum’s billionaire regularly traveled with the campaign and interacted with the candidate.
So called outside groups, like the one run by Karl Rove, are taking in tens of millions of dollars to run television ads in targeted House districts, Senate races and states critical to the Presidential election.
So with this massive amount of money flowing, what if a foreign country wanted to use a billionaire or a network of them to fund a certain political philosophy?
For example, what is to stop China from funneling cash to a casino group or other business? What is to stop a foreign country from walking into a casino in Macau, China and place large losing bets on a single roulette number? What if foreign banks provided favorable loan terms that freed up tens to hundreds of millions of dollars of cash that could, in turn, be used to fund massive ad buys?
The problem is not that this is happening. No one has said that it is happening. The real danger is that we lack the proper disclosure and safe guards in the system to ensure that this cannot happen.
For the vast majority of the funders of Republican SuperPACs this is an investment.
An investment in lower labor costs, the ability to wage discriminate against women, the ability to avoid costly environmental cleanup of toxic chemicals that cause cancer and birth defects. All of these items, and more, are on the shopping lists of SuperPAC donors.
In 2011, Republican Governors and legislators delivered for SuperPAC donors, proving the investment strategy sound.
If business leaders see SuperPACs as an avenue to buy policy outcomes that will help their bottom line then a foreign country is bound to try it as well.
About Bill Buck
Bill Buck is a Democratic strategist, President of the Buck Communications Group, a media relations and new media strategies consulting business based in Washington, DC, and Managing Director of the online ad firm Influence DSP. He has over twenty years of international and national communications experience. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.