Canada's cash

Posted: Jan 07, 2004 12:00 AM

Funding for American presidential elections is beginning to go global. From Sweden to Canada to Portugal, on international Web sites, solicitations are popping up urging the citizens of the world to contribute to advertising campaigns intended to influence our November presidential election. Of course they are not trying to re-elect George Bush. The candidacies of Howard Dean and Wesley Clark seem to be the inspiration for such efforts. There is no evidence, yet, that either of those campaigns is directly running these operations. But the Clark campaign has inched dangerously close.

Perceptive reporting by The Talon News and the Drudge Report over the last three weeks has begun to reveal this unprecedented fund-raising tactic. According to Drudge, the official Web site for Wesley Clark is linked to "CanadaForClark, which advises its readers that: Non-Americans can't, by law, give money to any particular candidate's campaign. But we can support pro-democracy, progressive American organizations like MoveOn.Org, which do their best to spread the ugly truth about Bush and publicize the Democratic message. Wink, wink ... nudge, nudge.

The Drudge Report goes on to report that the Web site links to MoveOn.Org for the purpose of making contributions, and that the top referrer to that Web site is the Official Clark for President Web site. It should be noted that the CanadaForClark Web site asserts that: "This site is not affiliated in any way with the official Clark campaign." But, of course, the official campaign Web site links to the "not affiliated" Web site.

Until this moment I am not aware of any major presidential campaign that has ever actually publicly assisted in raising foreign money to influence an American election. Of course, former President Clinton tried to raise illegal Chinese campaign money in his 1996 re-election campaign. But he had the practical political good sense to do it in secret, and to deny it when it was made public.

But retired four-star General Wesley Clark, the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO (and first in his class at West Point), apparently is blithe to be seen trying to taint an American presidential election with foreign money.

Whatever the legality of these methods turns out to be, it is stunning that a major candidate for president would think nothing of being seen to raise foreign money. This lack of judgment is only compounded by the fact that we are at war, and the money is being solicited by the foreigners expressly to try to stop President Bush from carrying out our war on terrorism.

Americans, of course, have the right to contribute to an election effort to defeat an American president during wartime. But if it is not yet against the law, then it should be made soon to bar even a single foreign dollar from influencing an American presidential election -- whether directly or indirectly. Should Osama bin Laden be permitted to buy television advertising intended to defeat President Bush in the election?

Just last month, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Congress's authority to limit political contributions from American corporations on the grounds that there are "important governmental interests in preventing both the actual corruption threatened by large financial contributions and the eroding of public confidence in the electoral process through the appearance of corruption."

If Congress can limit or bar Americans from contributing to presidential election campaigns, surely it has the authority to bar foreigners -- particularly supporters of the enemy in time of war. Keep in mind, last year's campaign finance law also barred issue advertising by Americans 60 days before an election. What would be an appropriate cut-off date for permitting terrorism supporting Saudi Princes or multi-billionaire international currency manipulators from buying advertising intended to manipulate American public opinion and bring down a president?

In an increasingly globalized world, with American influence (economic, military and cultural) inevitably affecting the rest of the world, it is predictable that the rest of the world will try to "have a vote" in our elections. Obviously much of the world (particularly Europe) no longer believes in its own sovereignty. Why should they respect ours? The good citizens of France have a voice in Paris and a voice in Brussels. Why not a voice in Washington, D.C?

It is inevitable that, unstopped, foreigners will try to influence our elections by buying political advertising here. So, too, it is inevitable that ambitious American politicians will -- one way or the other -- decide to ally themselves with those foreigners and their money against the formerly sovereign American political system. Wesley Clark is only the first of the type.