Thursday, April 10, 2008

When Foreigners Intrude In American Politics

Elton John to Americans that have the audacity to withhold support from Hillary Clinton: “To hell with [you].” Elton John to Hillary Clinton: “I love you Hillary, I’ll be there for you.” This all happened at a concert where John raised $2.5 million for Hillary’s campaign (see here).

Three questions. 1) How should this kind of relationship be expected to generate any enthusiasm among middle Americans to vote for Hillary? 2) Why should any American voter vest any positive value in the political opinions of a foreign entertainer with a penchant for being outrageous? 3) Why can Americans donate only up to $2,300 to a political candidate, while a foreign (or domestic) entertainer can donate services worth millions of dollars to a political campaign?

The first two questions are rhetorical. Eugene Volokh explained the answer to the third question in this 3/28/08 post. In essence, the Federal Election Commission has ruled that donated services are not counted as having monetary value for campaign purposes.

This is true regardless of whether the services are low value, such as you or me spending an evening making phone calls for a campaign, or high value, such as when Billy Crystal and Elvis Costello raised $1.5 million at Hillary’s ‘birthday party’ last fall. Despite the fact that such high value services are in fact substantial contributions, they are exempted from campaign finance laws as voluntary services.

Clearly we’ve got something messed up in our election laws and regulations. If we’re going to limit political campaign contributions from Americans, the rules need to apply across the board. For simplicity, we could exempt low value voluntary services, but the same should not be true of high value services. Moreover, foreign contributions should be disallowed altogether.

On the other hand, we could just allow anyone to donate any amount of money or services to any political campaign, but require complete transparency. For example, we could require that all contributions (with assigned monetary values) be made publicly available within 72 hours of receipt of the contribution. The idea is to get the news out and then let the people draw their own conclusions about the matter.

Still, I am completely uncomfortable with foreign interests inserting any influence whatsoever into American political campaigns. That right should be restricted to official Americans and those that can legally vote here.


Anonymous said...

I have to say that I totally agree. Foreign money should have no place in American political campaigns. In fact I would take it a step further and say that Texas money should have no place in Oregon political campaigns - in other words, those seeking offices to represent a certain state should not be getting donations from other states (this would include senators and representatives who serve in the federal government but are supposed to represent their home state).

Anonymous said...

If the last eight years of Bush has proved anything other than incompetence, it is that a large part of what is decided by your government affects the rest of the world. First of all, you Americans seem to forget that you - as of yet - are the one most powerful nation on this earth. Now, this is something to be proud of, I'm sure. But with power comes responsibility. No wonder the rest of the world is eager to see Americans make the right decisions. Secondly, Americans are not really in a position to moralize over foreigners meddling in US affairs. USA has been poking its finger in almost every major event abroad since WWII. Since you guys seem to be mostly Christians, I'll round things of with a fitting quote from The Bible. "Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye." (King James Bible chosen for dramatic effect:)