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America's Fear Of Foreign Political Donations Is Seriously Misguided

02/23/2016 02:11 EST | Updated 02/23/2017 05:12 EST
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Not since I was 18 and U. S. Senator Eugene McCarthy was running for president in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War have I felt such an urge to get involved.

Today in 2016 I look towards America from my chilly Canadian perch and I again fear for my American friends, although this time the enemy is a heartless, right-wing plutocracy threatening to destroy the middle class. And today's potential saviour is another left-of-centre senator: Bernie Sanders.

Not one for active political involvement, I have rarely donated to Canadian political parties and only once joined one.

It takes a lot to rouse me from my uninvolved state but Bernie and his followers have done it. I see the crisis facing America and I sense the hope that he brings to the fight. There's now no doubt that I "feel the Bern," but the question remains: What can I do to help?

We are not unaffected observers here in Canada. We have already seen the damage that a Republican-wannabe like Stephen Harper can do to our country. And we have a suspicion that an ultra-conservative in the White House would not be good news for us.

I could get on my soapbox and express my support for Senator Sanders. I could urge my friends and neighbours to do the same. I could even put an "I'm for Bernie" sign on my front lawn. The problem is, of course, that I live in Canada and no Americans are going to see, much less be persuaded by, my efforts.

Then it occurred to me -- I could make a donation to the Sanders campaign. At least I would feel like I was doing something.

The problem is that I'm not allowed to donate. I visited the Sanders website and started completing the donation form only to discover that you have to be an American citizen or a lawful resident of the United States to donate to a political campaign committee.

After reviewing the relevant regulations, I had to admit that there was an argument to support this restriction. The United States doesn't want its elections subject to foreign influence and interference.

However, this fear is more theoretical than practical. After all, the level of political donations from foreigners would not likely rise to any significant level nor would it have any perceivable effect on the presidential race.

Any risk from foreigners contributing to presidential campaigns pales in comparison to the damage now being done by a corporate sector unleashed by recent U. S. Supreme Court decisions striking down various provisions of bipartisan campaign finance reform legislation.

Thanks to the rulings of a right-wing court cabal in such cases as Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC, there are few, if any, practical restrictions on donations made by the wealthy. There now is no limit on the amount that rich donors can give to political candidates and political committees.

It seems preposterous that the American electoral system should fear the likes of me with my two-figure campaign donation when it is quickly being undermined by dangerous billionaires like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers.

Even the likes of Hillary Clinton are not immune to the enchanting sounds of the Wall Street sirens as she happily took $675,000 for three speeches she gave to the bailed-out firm of Goldman Sachs.

This is not simply a case of powerful, Washington-based lobby groups trying to influence specific pieces of legislation. Now Americans have to deal with an informal plutocracy whereby a wealthy few individuals finance political campaigns and buy and sell candidates on what amounts to an open market.

I can't do much about this dire situation. It's up to Americans to recognize and cure the cancer that is destroying their once-proud democracy. I can't donate to Bernie Sanders, but Americans can.

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