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January 9, 2024

American Promise Wisconsin Testimony in Support of Banning Foreign Contributions to Referendum Campaigns

American Promise Wisconsin Testimony in Support of Banning Foreign Contributions to Referendum Campaigns

January 9, 2024
Published By American Promise
“Wisconsin now has an important opportunity to protect its processes of self-government from foreign interference by passing AB 599. The proposed legislation is a smart, sensible, and timely policy that should easily earn bi-partisan support from the Wisconsin legislature.” – Brian Boyle

AMERICAN PROMISE SUBMITS TESTIMONY IN SUPPORT OF BANNING FOREIGN CONTRIBUTIONS TO REFERENDUM CAMPAIGNS; ENCOURAGES COMMITTEE TO ALSO SUPPORT AMENDMENT TO U.S. CONSTITUTION

Madison, WI – Today, American Promise submitted testimony in support of Assembly Bill 599 (“AB 599”) to the Members of the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections. AB 599 would expressly prohibit foreign nationals from making contributions to a referendum committee. Wisconsin’s courts and legislatures are already vulnerable to foreign influence as the law stands, proving the need for immediate change. 

“Wisconsin now has an important opportunity to protect its processes of self-government from foreign interference by passing AB 599. The proposed legislation is a smart, sensible, and timely policy that should easily earn bi-partisan support from the Wisconsin legislature,” said Brian Boyle, Executive Director & General Counsel at American Promise. “Additionally, now that foreign actors have become emboldened to ignore the will of elected officials and voters around the country, I also urge the legislature to support the For Our Freedom Amendment to put a stop to that. Without such an amendment, foreign interests will continue to attempt to bypass the will of elected officials and voters around the country.”

AB 599 would close an existing loophole in Wisconsin law by expressly prohibiting foreign nationals from making financial contributions to referendum committees. In recent years, foreign interests have been increasingly brazen in their attempts to influence ballot elections across the country. For example, foreign government-owned entities reportedly spent more than $100 million in Maine’s ballot elections over the past three years. 

There is broad bipartisan support for this amendment around the country and in Wisconsin. Twenty-two states have already passed resolutions in support of such an amendment. In Wisconsin, over 170 counties, cities, towns, and villages have voted in support of an amendment, and 78% of Wisconsin voters support the amendment

Eleven other states have already taken similar steps to protect their elections from foreign interference in referendum campaigns, and Congress is now considering multiple proposals to close this loophole as a matter of federal law, including one proposal being championed by Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI 8). The Federal Elections Commission is unanimously urging Congress to pass a law prohibiting foreign nationals from spending money in U.S. ballot elections.

An amendment to the U.S. Constitution, such as the For Our Freedom Amendment being championed by American Promise, is needed to strengthen the legal basis for crucial measures like AB 599. Under the current system, even if Wisconsin passes AB 599, its ballot elections will remain vulnerable to foreign influence without a constitutional amendment to create lasting reform. Current U.S. Supreme Court precedent has emboldened foreign entities to claim that they have a right—under the United States Constitution—to spend money in American elections, regardless of state or federal laws to the contrary. 

This is a real problem across the country. Last year, 86% of Maine’s voters passed a new law to prevent foreign government-owned entities from spending money in that state’s elections, and now foreign entities are challenging the law in federal court. Without efforts from states and a constitutional amendment, foreign entities will continue to have a hand in Wisconsin.

About American Promise

American Promise is a cross-partisan organization committed to a singular vision: ratifying the For Our Freedom Amendment to empower the states and Congress to set reasonable limits on political spending, ensuring every American voice counts. Our mission has drawn support from Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike. Leaders from business, politics, academia, the military, and nonprofits are among our ranks, including former members of Congress and Supreme Court justices.

CONTACT

Caitlin Harder 
469.426.6508
Caitlin.Harder@clyde.us

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