The FEC often receives questions about the rules governing foreign nationals’ participation in U. Readers should consult the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) and Commission regulations, advisory opinions, and relevant case law for additional information. In general, foreign nationals are prohibited from the following activities: Persons who knowingly and willfully engage in these activities may be subject to an FEC enforcement action, criminal prosecution, or both.
While this article responds to some of the most common questions, it does not cover all aspects of foreign national activity.
In a decision that was later affirmed by the Supreme Court, the U. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the foreign national ban “does not restrain foreign nationals from speaking out about issues or spending money to advocate their views about issues. In AO 2016-10 (Parker), the Commission determined that a U. citizen living abroad could solicit contributions on behalf of federal candidates and committees from other U. However, the Commission advised the requestor, “Limiting your solicitations to friends and family who live in the U. and who have not, to your knowledge, lived abroad, would not obligate you to conduct further inquiry about citizenship status due to the residence of the individuals whom you solicit.” If, however, she were to obtain a copy of a valid U. passport, she would be covered by the safe harbor provision noted above. The individual also admitted that at the time of the solicitation, he knew that the person he was soliciting was a foreign national and that contributions from foreign nationals were prohibited.
It restrains them only from a certain form of expressive activity closely tied to the voting process—providing money for a candidate or political party or spending money in order to expressly advocate for or against the election of a candidate.” Bluman v. In MUR 4834, an individual admitted knowingly and willfully soliciting a contribution from a foreign national and causing a foreign contribution to be made falsely in the name of a U. The Commission entered into a conciliation agreement with the individual, and he agreed to pay a civil penalty.
Based on these facts, the Commission found no reason to believe that the foreign national or the federal candidate’s committee had violated the Act’s foreign national prohibition. Under Commission regulations, it is unlawful to knowingly provide “substantial assistance” to foreign nationals making contributions or donations in connection with any U. "Substantial assistance" refers to active involvement in the solicitation, making, receipt or acceptance of a foreign national contribution or donation with the intent of facilitating the successful completion of the transaction.
Despite the general prohibition on foreign national contributions and donations, foreign nationals may lawfully engage in political activity that is not connected with any election to political office at the federal, state, or local levels. This prohibition includes, but is not limited to individuals who act as conduits or intermediaries.
The foreign nationals’ involvement in the decision to establish and fund the “contribution committee” meant that its subsequent contributions violated the ban on foreign nationals participating directly or indirectly in the making of contributions and donations in connection with elections.
The corporation and the foreign national directors paid a civil penalty.
The Commission has addressed applicability of this exemption to several situations involving volunteer activity by a foreign national, as explained below.
In AO 2014-20 (Make Your Laws PAC), the Commission concluded that a political action committee could accept assistance from a foreign national in developing intellectual property for the PAC, such as trademarks, graphics, and website design because the services accepted by the PAC would fall under the volunteer exemption.