Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Chairman, historically, Congress has been very clear about disallowing foreign contributions to U.S. campaigns at every level, and if we look, however, at the foreign lobbying activities that have grown, especially in this past quarter century, and the organization of multinational corporations that have in many ways outgrown existing law, it is clear that an amendment like this is needed and, as originally proposed, my amendment sought to both clarify the definition as well as the disclosure by foreign-controlled political action contributions to U.S. election campaigns.
But I am going to offer a modified version of this after considerable consultation with the gentleman from Connecticut (Mr. Shays) and the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Gillmor) and others on the other side of the aisle and this one.
But it is certainly true to say that U.S. law has been abundantly clear about who can contribute to U.S. campaigns: citizens of this country as individuals and citizens through political action committees expressly organized for that purpose. But corporations cannot contribute directly, nor can trade unions outside of a formally recognized political action committee.
But because of a loophole dating back to 1934, while foreign nationals and foreign citizens cannot directly or indirectly contribute to U.S. elections, foreign-controlled corporations and trade associations, including those based in the United States, can contribute.
The Federal Election Campaign Act, section 441(e) says, and I quote,
A foreign national shall not directly or through any other person make a contribution or expressly or implicitly promise to make a contribution in connection with an election to any political office or in connection with any primary election, convention, or caucus held to select candidates for any political office or for any person to solicit, accept, or receive any such contribution from a foreign national.
The Federal Elections Act defines a foreign principal as a government of a foreign country or a foreign political party; a person outside the United States who is not a citizen; or a partnership, association, corporation, or organization, or other combination of persons organized under the laws of or having its principal base of business in a foreign country.
The loophole in all of that is that foreign-owned corporations and trade associations which are organized under U.S. law and have their principal place of business in the United States are not classified as foreign principals and are, therefore, allowed to operate PACs, even though their control and ownership are foreign in nature.
The principal law governing the disclosure of lobbying by these entities, the Foreign Agents Registration Act, when the GAO studied in 1990 what had been happening, it is that, in fact, disclosure of those activities are very thin.
The GAO found that the lack of timeliness of the filing of reports required under the Foreign Agents Registration Act contributes to the failure to fulfill the Act's goal of providing the public with sufficient information on foreign agents and their activities in this country, including political activities.
As modified, my amendment will not disallow contributions as I had hoped to do in a bill that I had filed earlier, because, frankly, there was opposition to doing that. But it does take the one section of our proposal that will allow us to at least collect the information that we need to understand the impact and the extent of these involvements.
As presently constituted, my amendment would establish within the Federal Election Commission a clearinghouse on that of public information regarding the political activities of foreign principals or their agents.
Currently, public information on these activities is collected by the government in scattered ways. But this information would be brought together in one place and provide the public and Congress a better idea of what is actually going on in regard to foreign lobbying and giving activity.
No one will be required to provide any information that is not already collected but in several disparate places. Nor would anyone be required to provide duplicative information to a new agency.
The responsibility for furnishing the data to the FEC would rest with the agency itself. The clearinghouse will only collect public information already compiled and will provide a comprehensive picture of what political activities are taking place by these foreign interests.
The CHAIRMAN pro tempore. The gentlewoman's time has expired.