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After the Federal Election Commission hit the Jeb Bush-affiliated Right to Rise super PAC with a record fine for illegally soliciting donations from foreign donors, focus has shifted to how many foreign-owned companies actually participate in American elections. The answer? Quite a few.
Foreign-based corporations or U.S. subsidiaries of foreign-based corporations have contributed millions of dollars to super PACs and hybrid PACs following Citizens United v. FEC, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that opened up federal elections to direct corporate contributions.
Foreign nationals are barred from contributing to federal committees. However, a foreign corporation’s U.S. subsidiary is allowed to contribute to outside spending groups such as super PACs as long as no foreign national directs the contribution.
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London-based British American Tobacco acquired Reynolds American, Inc. in July 2017 after owning a major stake in the U.S. company since 2004. Following the transaction, RAI ramped up its political giving, doling out $1.2 million to super PACs, more than any other domestic subsidiary in the 2018 cycle.
The company gave $600,000 to the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) and $450,000 to Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) in 2018. The GOP leadership-linked super PACs were among the top spenders in 2018 and were also particularly popular among foreign-owned corporations.