Press Releases

Reps. Porter, Gallagher Bill Would Crack Down on Foreign Influence in State and Local Elections

Bipartisan legislation prohibiting foreign funding for ballot campaigns tackles top problem identified by elections watchdog

Today, Reps. Katie Porter (D-CA) and Mike Gallagher (R-WI) reintroduced legislation with seven of their colleagues to eliminate foreign funding from state and local ballot initiatives, referendums, and recalls. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) plans to introduce companion legislation in the Senate.

“Our elections are for Americans to make their voices heard—not foreign interests,” said Rep. Porter. “Loopholes in federal election law permit foreign governments and corporations to funnel huge amounts of money to sway state and local ballot measures. Democrats and Republicans agree: this kind of corruption has no place in our politics.”

“It is illegal for foreign entities to donate to American politicians or political campaigns, but a legal loophole currently allows them to donate to state and local ballot referenda and meddle in key political processes. This common-sense, bipartisan bill would close this loophole and thereby prevent America’s adversaries from corrupting our political process with foreign money and influence,” said Rep. Gallagher.

“Foreign governments and corporations should not be able to exert influence on our laws and democracy. Loopholes that allow foreign nationals to fund ballot initiatives are dangerous and must be closed swiftly,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The Stop Foreign Interference in Ballot Measures Act would help protect our elections by banning foreign donations for ballot measures and recall elections, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to get it done.”

A loophole in federal election law permits foreign donations to influence ballot measures, referendums, and recalls at a state or local level. In Maine, a Canadian utility company spent $22 million to lobby voters on ballot measures related to a transmission project that would’ve generated $10 billion for the company. In 2018, an Australian mining company spent nearly $300,000 to sway the results of a referendum in Montana that would’ve cut down on water pollution from mining. 

The Stop Foreign Interference in Ballot Measures Act would eliminate this loophole and prevent foreign interests from influencing state and local ballot measures. Last year, the Federal Elections Commission unanimously identified this gap as one of its top areas for legislative action. Rep. Porter’s bipartisan proposal passed the House in 2019 as part of H.R. 1, and similar measures have been signed into law by 10 states. 

Reps. Juan Ciscomani (R-AZ), John Duarte (R-CA), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Young Kim (R-CA), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Terri Sewell (D-AL), and Norma J. Torres (D-CA) cosponsor the Stop Foreign Interference in Ballot Measures Act. The bill is endorsed by Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, End Citizens United / Let America Vote Action Fund, Public Citizen, and Take Back Our Republic Action.

In Congress, Rep. Porter has been a champion for protecting our democracy, eliminating corruption, and limiting the influence of money in elections. In 2021, she introduced a bill to close loopholes that allow foreign governments and corporations to make campaign contributions, and crack down on lobbyists for foreign entities that help skirt donation rules. Rep. Porter also co-founded the End Corruption Caucus to reduce the influence of special interests in our democracy. The House approved Rep. Porter’s proposal to strengthen “Truth-in-Testimony” rules in 2021. Witnesses in Congressional hearings must now disclose foreign grants and obligations to outside organizations prior to testifying before Congress.