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Sunday, February 25, 2024 | Back issues
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Canadians Fight U.S. Ban on Political Giving

WASHINGTON (CN) - Two Canadian citizens who live legally in the United States have challenged the law that prevents them from giving money to political candidates. Benjamin Bluman and Dr. Asenath Steiman sued the Federal Election Commission in Federal Court, claiming the so-called Alien Gag Law is unconstitutional.

Both Bluman and Steiman live and work in New York City. Bluman says he's a Harvard-educated lawyer working as an associate with a New York law firm. Steiman is fulfilling her medical residency at the Beth Israel Medical Center.

Bluman and Steiman claim "they are subject to the laws enacted by their local, state, and federal governments. They pay taxes and robustly participate in civil life."

Bluman, a "'TN-status' non-immigrant," says he's a "passionate" supporter of Democratic issues, including protecting the environment and recognizing same-sex marriage, but the law prevents him from contributing to Rep. Jay Inslee, Sen. Diane Savino and President Barack Obama. He wants to give each of their campaigns $100.

Steiman, a member of the American Medical Association and a "'J1-Status' non-immigrant," want to give $100 apiece to Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, the party's National Senatorial Committee and the Club for Growth.

The political enthusiasts say the regulations imposed by the Act "forbid any foreign national (other than one who has been admitted to the United States for permanent residence) from 'directly or indirectly' making 'a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value ... in connection with a federal, state or local election'; making 'a contribution or donation to a committee of a political party'; or making an 'expenditure,' 'independence expenditure,' or disbursement for an electioneering communication' in connection with any federal, state or local election."

A willful violation "is punishable by a civil penalty not exceeding the greater of $10,000 or 200 percent of any contribution or expenditure involved in the violation." It also carries up to five years imprisonment.

They want a three-judge federal panel to declare that the regulation violates the First Amendment and want the FEC enjoined from enforcing it.

They are represented by Warren Postman and Jacob Roth with Jones Day.

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