How Citizens United Increases Foreign Influence Over American Politics

By Michael Bryan
Moneykey A frequently unrecognized effect of the Citizens United decision is that it will inevitably lay open our political system to unfettered foreign influence. By giving corporations constitutional rights within our political system, the Supreme Court has ensured that foreign governments and corporations have a constitutionally-based means to infiltrate and corrupt our political system.

The essential problem is that the legal infrastructure supporting globalization ensures foreign capital and the foreign corporations and sovereign states that control large accumulations of it need recognize no borders, and owe no ultimate allegiance to any nation-state. All a foreign government or company need do to begin buying public policy wholesale in the United States is incorporate in any U.S. state or territory and use that legal personality to buy influence in our political discourse without any significant limits.

Due to America’s overwhelming importance to the global economy and security, the rewards for investing in the purchase of American policy, and policy-makers, are irresistibly vast. The best investment returns available anywhere in the world in any market sector is control of American policy regarding your targeted market. The inestimable value of political influence over US governments ensures that global capitalists will quickly develop the expertise to quietly and anonymously (to the general public) influence American politics through ownership or partnerships with U.S. corporate personalities and principals.

There are some legal bars to direct contributions to candidates by foreign-owned corporations, but that is not where the real power of Citizens United lies: it lies in independent expenditures. And there is no legal bar to a foreign owned, controlled, or subsidary corporation incorporated in any of the United States from unlimited spending from their treasuries to influence public policy and elections through independent expenditures.

In the less than two years since Citizens United, the conduits of power and influence have already become almost completely obscured as American corporations hide their role in independent campaign committees, that facility will soon become a core competency of foreign capital seeking advantage in the American markets. The market for savvy and politically-connected native influence pedlars willing to take their percentage to act on behalf of foreign interests will explode. Already, lobbyists openly flack for foreign interests and governments perfectly legally. Citizens United allows those foreign interests to bypass lobbying registration requirements and directly expend funds on issue advocacy and independent election campaigns. Any illusion of control over the influence of foreign interests in our politics is completely shattered by Citizens United.

Could Congress create new law to try to rectify foreign access to our political process? Perhaps. But doing so skirts an area of First Amendment law wherein the current Court has decided to be agressively activist. Will Congress risk it? Will the Court allow it? These are unknowns, and in our system, unknowns generate inaction.

And as foreign influence grows unchecked in the meantime, one of the first targets for foreign influence will be to shut down any political appetite in policymakers for reform of foriegn money in our political process. Foreign influence will become part of the political landscape, a necessary source of political funds and power that domestic politicians will quickly become dependent upon. One thing is always true in American politics – as soon as corruption becomes institutionalized through law, the system moves to ensure that the “corruption” becomes merely business as usual.
Perhaps after the first major scandal, when a foreign government or corporation is discovered by some intrepid investigator to be the main contributor to a successful independent campaign against workers rights, unions, trade policy or some other scheme to secure unfair advantage using our fractured and federated political system, there may be a public outcry giving an opportunity for reform – but I doubt it. The only way forward I can see is a constitutional amendment preventing any but natural persons from participating in the political system in any way.

Citizen’s United threatens in the long run to create a government not just ‘of the corporations, by the corporation, and for the corporations’, but to create a locus of American political power that is even further from the actual citizens of America and wholly beholden to globalized capital and corporations whose fundamental interests do not align with that of the United States of America, let alone the citizens of America. We will end up with a system of representation without taxation, and that ultimately spells doom for the rights and well-being of the real people who live here.

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