First Amendment and “Foreign-Controlled” U.S. Corporations: Why Congress Ought to Affirm Domestic Subsidiaries’ Corporate Political-Speech Rights
Political spending in the modern-day, prolonged election cycle continues to exceed historic proportions. With money equated to speech, whether the First Amendment entitles certain contributors to engage in this political activity remains an open question. Unlike France and Israel, which prohibit corporate contributions, and Canada and the United Kingdom, which turn to public funding for campaign finance, the United States has pushed candidates to rely on political party contributions, personal wealth, and the generosity of individuals, political action committees, and corporations. Concerns about corporate and foreign influence on politics have been especially salient during this lengthy economic downturn, as shown by the prominence of the nationwide Occupy Wall Street protests. Those who trumpet restrictions on so-called “foreign” corporate political influence are concerned with infringements on U.S. sovereign independence and citizens’ political self-determination. This Note responds to the uproar against corporate and foreign influence in the wake of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, arguing the debate in Congress and, thus, the law, ought to distinguish between domestic subsidiaries of foreign corporations and foreign corporations themselves. Under the current legal regime, no distinction between U.S. corporations and domestic subsidiaries exists; despite proposed legislation to the contrary, it should remain this way.