Feb. 6 and Feb. 14: This story was been updated and clarified with additional reporting.
Cities and counties in Florida that want to limit dark money or foreign donors in their own elections would be stopped under a surprise proposal now moving through the Legislature.
Curbing money in politics at the local level has become the cause of choice for advocates of tougher campaign finance rules, who find themselves blocked from any chance at nationwide success in the partisan gridlocked Congress. The effort launched this week by Republicans in charge in Tallahassee looks to be the most prominent move yet by a state to preempt such local statutes.
The GOP target is an ordinance enacted three years ago by St. Petersburg, the state's fifth biggest city, that has been cited as the first of its kind in the country and the model several other cities have followed since.
The Seattle City Council unanimously approved legislation Monday that would ban most spending on local politics by foreign-influenced corporations.
The measure would prevent corporations owned in whole or in significant part by foreign entities from spending money in local elections. Seattle is the second city to enact such a measure. The other is St. Petersburg, Fla.
Seattle's legislation was advanced in response to corporations led by Amazon — which is headquartered in the city and is the region's biggest tech employer — spending millions to influence the city's election last year. Although it's based in the United States, Amazon could still be barred from future political spending in Seattle if its foreign investors own a considerable portion of the company.
Curbing overseas influence in Maryland's elections is top of mind for two state lawmakers on the cusp of a new legislative session.
The pair of Democrats introduced legislation this week that would prohibit foreign-influenced corporations from making contributions to candidates or political committees in state elections.
Prospects for the bill are not clear. But if it's enacted, the state adjacent to Washington (where foreign influence in politics is a top-tier concern that's not been matched with any federal legislative response) would become the first in the country with such campaign finance restrictions.
Foreign election interference is among the most troublesome challenges confronting democracy now — and not just by America's adversaries who hack votes and spread disinformation. Federal law is written to prevent allies and enemies alike from spending foreign money to influence American politics. But the loopholes are ample and they've been exploited for decades.
The Center for American Progress, one of the country's most prominent progressive public policy advocacy groups, has stepped forward with a solution — albeit a lofty one. On Thursday it outlined an ambitious proposal to virtually eliminate spending on U.S. campaigns by businesses under even minimal foreign influence.
As with so much else on the democracy reform agenda, however, the odds are prohibitive that any legislation along the lines CAP wants will get through the current Congress. Such bills might get through the Democratic House but are doomed in the Republican Senate, especially given Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's disdain for regulating campaign finance.