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Noncitizens Head to Trial Over Political Giving Ban

WASHINGTON (CN) - Two Canadian citizens living in the U.S. will have a three-judge court hear their challenge to the so-called Alien Gag Law, a section of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act that blocks foreign nationals from giving money to political candidates, a federal judge ruled.

Benjamin Bluman and Dr. Asenath Steiman, both New Yorkers, filed a federal lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission in October, claiming that the law wrongfully blocks them from contributing money in the last election, though they live, work and pay taxes in America.

Bluman says he is a Harvard-educated associate with a New York law firm and a "passionate" Democratic supporter, according to his complaint. He had wanted to donate $100 each to Rep. Jay Inslee, Sen. Diane Savino and President Barack Obama in the last election.

Steiman, who is fulfilling her medical residency at the Beth Israel Medical Center and belongs to the American Medical Association, claimed she wanted to contribute $100 apiece to Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, the party's National Senatorial Committee and the Club for Growth.

The election commission contended that the plaintiffs' challenge to the campaign law could not move forward since political contributions from foreign nationals has been prohibited since the 1976 Federal Election Campaign Act.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina rejected the argument, finding that 1976 statute was replaced entirely by the law under attack in the lawsuit.

Urbina would not let the plaintiffs bring their challenge against the law's implementing regulation before the three-judge court, however, since the court does have the authority to rule on the constitutionality of the election commission's regulations.

The maximum penalty for violating the Alien Gag Law is a fine of $10,000 and a five-year prison sentence, according to the plaintiffs' complaint.

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