Buried inside the 2,000-page omnibus bill passed by Congress is a remarkable provision.
The Federal Election Commission will have to provide answers on how it’s enforcing a decades-old prohibition — made newly relevant by Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign — on foreign money in American elections.
Campaign finance reformers, including former FEC chairwoman Ann Ravel, cheered the provision as an “incredible” step in the right direction.
This is an incredible directive. Never saw anything remotely like this when I was Chair. Hopefully it will spur@FEC to take its obligation to enforce the law seriously. https://t.co/NJGPZUgobR
— Ann Ravel (@AnnMRavel) March 22, 2018
Per the language in the spending bill, the FEC’s chairwoman, Republican Caroline Hunter, will have 180 days after the bill’s passage to provide a report to the House and Senate appropriations committees on how the agency “identifies foreign contributions to elections, and what it plans to do in the future to continue these efforts.”
This provision reinforcing the need to preserve “the integrity of elections” was authored by Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), who campaigned on a platform to improve transparency and reform the campaign finance system.
Hunter told The Hill she was eager to lay out for Congress the measures the FEC takes to ensure that foreigners can’t funnel money into American political campaigns.
President Trump has threatened to veto the spending bill, but is expected ultimately to sign it.
The FBI is reportedly investigating whether Russian banker Aleksandr Torshin gave money to the National Rifle Association’s lobbying arm in order to benefit Trump’s 2016 campaign. The NRA has denied any wrongdoing, pointing to its “longstanding policy” against accepting funds from foreign entities or individuals.
American Democracy Legal Fund, a liberal group, has filed a complaint with the FEC requesting a thorough investigation of financial links between the NRA and Russia. No formal probe has yet been launched.
As TPM has reported, a series of Supreme Court rulings gutting laws governing money in politics have left U.S. elections vulnerable to donations from foreign sources, which can be concealed in complex webs of shell companies.