Updated 7/1/97

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Troubles For Thompson's Show Wily Democrats and G.O.P. skeletons gum up his campaign-fund probe. By Michael Weisskopf/TIME, 6/15/97

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The Democratic Fund-Raising Flap

What's Legal, And What's Not

Here's what's legal, what's not and what's uncertain when it comes to non-U.S. citizens giving money in U.S. elections, and how the law fits some of the money now in the news.

What's Legal

  • Individuals: Non-citizens may give if they are legally admitted as permanent residents (i.e., have a "green card") and are living in the U.S. at the time.
  • Corporations: U.S. units of non-U.S. corporations may give, if those U.S. subsidiaries supply the money from their own revenues and are not acting on orders from overseas.

What's Not Legal

  • Individuals: Non-citizens may not give to any federal, state OR local U.S. candidate or political party unless they have a "green card."
  • Corporations: Non-U.S. corporations may not give to any federal, state or local U.S. candidate or political party. (It's also illegal for U.S. corporations to give to federal candidates, but they get around that by using the "soft money" loophole, giving to political parties which spend the money on state and local political activities where that is legal. But this "soft money" avenue isn't open to non-U.S. corporations because they are barred by federal law from giving even at the state and local level.)

What's Uncertain

  • Individuals: It may violate the law for any non-citizen to give while living outside the U.S., even if they have a "green card." The Democratic National Committee (which took $450,000 from an Indonesian couple, $320,000 of it after they had gone back to Jakarta) says it's permitted. But some Republican election lawyers say it is not, and some independent legal experts say the GOP lawyers may be right. The Federal Election Commission is expected to review this matter.
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