McConnell defends speech rights of corrupt foreign company

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Adam Smith, Public Campaign Action Fund
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Washington, D.C.—U.K. based BAE Systems was fined $400 million yesterday after pleading guilty to charges that it “knowingly failed to ensure compliance with legal prohibitions on foreign bribery,” according to the Associated Press. The company concealed payments, paid advisors through offshore shell companies, and assisted advisers in avoiding tax liabilities.


“Overseas, BAE Systems used bribes to secure defense contracts,” said David Donnelly, national campaign director for Public Campaign Action Fund. “Here in the U.S., BAE Systems uses campaign contributions to members of Congress like Sen. McConnell to secure millions of dollars in earmarks and contracts. Our policy decision process has warped into a system of legalized bribery.”


“The question for Sen. McConnell is whether he believes foreign companies found guilty of bribery and defrauding the U.S. government ought to be able to spend as much as they want in elections,” said Donnelly. “Kentuckians expect and deserve a government accountable to the people who elected them – not corrupt foreign companies or big special interests who want a big return when they donate maxed out contributions.”


Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has received more than $60,000 in campaign donations from employees of BAE’s U.S. subsidiary since 2002, according to analysis of data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. McConnell requested $17 million in earmarks for the company for fiscal year 2010 and has secured millions more in previous years.


Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United vs. FEC that corporations – including U.S. Subsidiaries of foreign corporations – could spend unlimited corporate treasury funds to influence American elections. On the decision, Sen. McConnell stated that, “Citizens United is and will be a First Amendment triumph of enduring significance.”


Congress is considering legislation to blunt the impact of the Roberts Court decision including the Fair Elections Now Act (S. 752, H.R. 1826). The Fair Elections Now Act allows candidates to seek office with a blend of limited public financing and a four-to-one match on donations of $100 or less. The bill has broad, bipartisan support including 139 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives.

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Public Campaign Action Fund is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving America’s campaign finance laws and campaigns to hold elected officials and politicians accountable for opposing reform and for the special favors they do for their political contributors.