January 27th, 2010
09:32 PM ET
4 years ago

CNN Fact Check: Overseas corporations OK'd for campaign cash?

(CNN) – Does last week's Supreme Court decision striking down limits on corporate campaign spending allow overseas companies to finance U.S. political campaigns?

That's what President Barack Obama is asserting in Wednesday night's State of the Union address, which included his latest critique of the 5-4 ruling.

"Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests - including foreign companies - to spend without limit in our elections," Obama said. "Well, I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, and worse, by foreign entities."

CNN Fact Check found that the court's majority appeared to sidestep the issue. Obama's declaration puts him on the side of the minority in last week's ruling and lays down a clear marker in a debate that is likely to go on for some time.

Bradley Smith, a former Federal Election Commission chairman who supports rolling back campaign finance law, has argued that laws already on the books that prevent non-U.S. citizens from giving to U.S. campaigns already cover overseas corporations.

But Nathaniel Persily, a professor of law and political science at Columbia University said the decision doesn't make any distinction between U.S.-chartered and overseas corporations, effectively opening the door to money from overseas.

"The court decision itself liberated all corporations that were prevented from running ads in elections," Persily said. "So foreign corporations were prohibited beforehand, and just like all other corporations, they were liberated by this decision."

But the ruling also leaves the door open for Congress to set new restrictions.

"The question is, how much foreign ownership does a corporation have to have before you can limit its expenditures?" Persily told CNN. After last week's decision, "It's up to Congress to delineate which corporations might be owned by foreign interests to a sufficient amount that they can be regulated."

soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. File under "Sarcasm"

    Bash big business, bash big banks, bash the Supreme Court, bash everyone but unions and Democrats

    January 27, 2010 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  2. DAVID

    oh come now POTUS, you didn't complain the bankrolling you had for your college education..... how does someone attend Harvard Law School without a scholarship or student loans????? answer that for me will you please...

    January 27, 2010 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  3. m smith

    the president is right and this is a scary discission. Bad move for the American people

    January 27, 2010 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  4. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    It isn't really clear as to what is going on with outside contributions into campaigns. The Supreme Court shouldn't have done this. It opens the possibility of foreign companies and countries to running their own ads for or against people running for office and legislation. That is dangerous.

    January 27, 2010 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  5. Mike

    Where do you get off saying Obama's opinion puts him in the minority?? The minority opinion of the Supreme Court?

    What an amazingly misleading statement and telling of your bias. Obama's opinion puts him solidly with the opinion of the vast majority of Americans - companies have no business pumping money into political messages. Let the employees speak for themselves.

    If corporations have a first amendment "voice", does that mean when they "speak" they are speaking for me if I am employee? What if I vehemently disagree with their message? They are using wealth that I helped create to put a lie to my political beliefs.

    January 27, 2010 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  6. PKZ

    If Obama had read the opinion, he would have known that SCOTUS did NOT rule on the issue of foreign corporations. Mark this one down as either blatant lie or flat out ignorance.

    January 28, 2010 01:19 am at 1:19 am |