One of the many challenges President Obama and the new Congress expect to face this year is immigration reform as both parties believe they can spin it to be an issue supported by moderates and their party base. With Congressional Democrats and President Obama winning an overwhelming majority of minorities in the 2012 election, they are likely to renew the push to pass the DREAM Act or some other pathway for illegal immigrants to gain United States citizenship. Immigration reform for Democrats is not only geared toward a growing block of support, but is also being pushed by a broad coalition of interests; like the AFL-CIO, as well as the Chamber of Commerce. However, if President Obama and Congressional Democrats play their hands wisely they may be able to provide a path for citizenship, as well as strong campaign finance reform in the same bill.
The object would be to eliminate or drastically reduce corporate campaign contributions based on their federal status as people. Republicans will object to many of the immigration reforms presented by the President and Congress for political and ideological reasons. One possible compromise to this would be a restatement of the principle that no persons or individuals may spend money to influence United States elections unless they are citizens of the United States. The real purpose of the law would be to target corporations and unions legal status as people that have the same rights as individuals.
The motivation for this type of bill is simple politics: Wall Street alone has increased its campaign spending by 700% over two decades. This trend has not been as drastic in every industry, but there have been substantial increases in almost every industry as regulations have been loosened, or removed. Many Democrats have a fundamental issue with globs of corporate money being spent in political campaigns, and Republicans are often seen as friendlier towards corporations. As a result 55% of the financial sector goes money goes to the Republican Party, a trend that is mirrored as Democrats nationally have been out-fund raised for Congressional races during every election year since 2000 (with the exception of 2008).
In the recent Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court, it was ruled that corporations and unions have the same rights as individuals to unlimited amounts of campaign spending. This law will remain on the books, and we should take it to its next logical conclusion; if corporations are people but are owned or based in another country, they are citizens of a different nation. These “people” are contributing illegal money into the United States election system, because it is illegal for anyone who is not a citizen of the United States to spend money to influence a United State election. This concept has been upheld time and again by the Supreme Court, with it being upheld as recently as January. The New York Times covered the story saying that, “Foreign nationals, other than lawful permanent residents, are completely banned from donating to candidates or parties, or making independent expenditures in federal, state or local elections.”
There is strong evidence that Congressional Democrats as well as the President would be opposed to this idea – Corporate America funds their campaign war chests just like they fund Republicans – but they would be foolish to miss the opportunity. While Wall Street and big corporations generously donate to both political parties, they contribute to Republicans by much larger margin. It would also be a prime opportunity for a debate on the issues, as the Democrats could be seen as heralding the end of big foreign companies spending their money on United States elections. At the same time they would be putting Republicans in the incredibly unpopular position of either voting for foreign corporations, or voting against their Wall Street interests.