Press Releases

Rep. Porter Introduces Legislation to Eliminate Foreign Political Influence

Congresswoman’s bill cracks down on foreign governments, corporations trying to influence elections and policymakers in secret

Congresswoman Katie Porter (CA-45) has introduced legislation to eliminate foreign political influence in our elections and dramatically increase transparency on lobbying for foreign governments. The Foreign Political Influence Elimination Act of 2021 would close loopholes that enable foreign governments and corporations to make campaign contributions. Porter’s bill would also go after lobbyists for foreign governments who give campaign contributions, hide their foreign clients, or dodge penalties for breaking the law.

“Our democracy belongs to the American people, which means we have a duty to take on foreign governments and corporations that try to sway our policymakers,” said Congresswoman Porter. “Foreign governments and corporations should not be able to lobby our government in secret or to influence our elections. My bill holds these actors accountable to the American people, so they can be confident that our government works for them.”

Porter’s bill comes on the heels of the indictment of Tom Barrack, Chairman of President Trump’s Inaugural Committee, who faces federal charges for illegally trying to influence the U.S. government on behalf of the United Arab Emirates. The rare indictment, together with the brazen behavior Barrack is accused of, reflect the difficulty in holding foreign agents accountable under current laws. 

Since Citizens United, foreign controlled corporations have made unknown millions in political contributions. Lobbyists acting on behalf of foreign governments and corporations have donated millions more, with at least $8.5 million in individual donations to federal lawmakers and candidates during the 2020 election alone, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Porter’s Foreign Political Influence Elimination Act also couples campaign finance reforms with improvements to lobbying laws, which currently allow foreign agents to peddle influence in other ways, such as by funding the work of supposedly independent think tanks that lawmakers and experts depend on. 

“Right now, it’s simply too easy for foreign interests to interfere in American elections,” said Adav Noti, senior director, trial litigation at the Campaign Legal Center (CLC). “Rep. Porter’s bill would crack down on election interference by foreign-influenced corporations and dark money groups, along with their paid lobbyists. It would also make sure foreign agents report propaganda aimed at Americans on social media and put real muscle behind enforcement of foreign lobbyist laws. Rep. Porter’s bill is a serious, meaningful, and necessary step towards keeping American elections safe.”

“Foreign governments, from Russia to China to Iran, are actively meddling in U.S. elections and trying to influence American public policies. This has to stop,” said Craig Holman, of Public Citizen. “Rep. Porter’s Foreign Political Influence Elimination Act would effectively rein in these foreign assaults on our democracy. The legislation would more accurately define when a foreign corporation or nonprofit is in fact a front group for a foreign government and prohibit their financing of elections. It would also require that foreign agents attempting to lobby the American government register and declare themselves as representing foreign interests rather than hide among the legions of American lobbyists. This critical legislation is strongly endorsed by Public Citizen.”

“Americans deserve to know who is trying to influence our voices and our votes, and foreign entities should have zero role in determining American elections,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “The Foreign Political Influence Elimination Act would help ensure that hostile foreign actors cannot influence our elections, and we commend Congresswoman Porter for introducing this common-sense legislation.”

Congresswoman Porter has made fighting corruption a top priority since being elected to the House. In 2019, she secured an amendment to House-passed legislation to prohibit foreign money in campaigns for state and local ballot initiatives. In 2020, she spearheaded a Congressional request for an independent investigation on defense offsets, side deals that defense contractors use to lubricate sales to foreign governments, including the infamous 2017 sale of smart bombs to Saudi Arabia. In 2021, she won language strengthening “Truth-in-Testimony” disclosures for Congressional witnesses, and became a founding member of the bipartisan Caucus Against Foreign Corruption and Kleptocracy.