Foreign contribution ban heads to Senate floor

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Florida is responding to a recent FEC ruling that OK'd foreign donations for ballot initiatives.

Legislation to clarify the ban on political contributions from foreign nationals is ready for the Senate floor.

Federal law already prohibits donations from foreigners and foreign entities to elections. However, a decision the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) issued in November opened the door to foreign donations for state ballot initiatives.

A bill filed by Sen. Jason Brodeur (SB 1352) would ban contributions from foreign governments, foreign political parties, foreign businesses and foreign citizens, as well as people who aren’t U.S. citizens and who aren’t granted permanent residence. That doesn’t include dual citizens.

As the Senate Rules Committee considered Brodeur’s bill on Wednesday, the Sanford Republican told committee members his proposal falls into the “I thought this was already illegal” category.

“We are putting (on) belts and suspenders and making sure people understand that,” he continued.

A change to the bill accepted Wednesday further clarified that domestic subsidiaries of foreign companies could contribute to campaigns, drawing on additional FEC guidance.

“If we think of corporations like Greenpeace or Toyota who have operations here in the U.S., those U.S. subsidiaries would still be able to participate,” Brodeur said.

Following the FEC ruling, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio became the highest-ranking Republican to oppose opening the door to foreign contributions. He called the possibility of Chinese or Russian involvement in ballot initiatives worrying.

The House State Affairs Committee is expected to consider a similar bill (HB 921) Wednesday afternoon, carried by Eucheeanna Republican Rep. Brad Drake. On top of banning foreign contributions, a draft version of that measure would revise the $3,000 limit on donations to political committees that are gathering signatures for a ballot initiative to only apply to non-Floridians and committees that don’t have a registered office in Florida.

Lawmakers last year passed the $3,000 limit during signature gathering in an effort Republicans say aims to limit out-of-state interests from influencing amendments to Florida’s Constitution. Unlike that proposal, which Democrats framed as an attempt to curb ballot initiatives opposed by Republican lawmakers, the foreign nationals legislation has bipartisan support.

If approved, the bills would take effect July 1.

Following the bills’ hearings Wednesday, the measures will be ready for consideration on both the House and Senate floors.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.



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