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Friday, April 12, 2024 | Back issues
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Would-Be Donors Lose Alien Gag Law Challenge

(CN) - The Supreme Court on Monday tossed a challenge by two Canadian citizens to the so-called Alien Gag Law, which forbids noncitizens from financially supporting their political causes in the United States.

Benjamin Bluman and Dr. Asenath Steiman argued that the law wrongfully blocked them from contributing to the last election, though they live, work and pay taxes in New York.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the case in August, leading Bluman and Steiman to seek relief from the Supreme Court.

But that maneuver proved futile as well with the Supreme Court affirming without comment on Monday.

The 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which forbids foreign nationals from donating money to political parties, campaigns or political action committees, reinforced past laws that prohibited foreign nationals from influencing U.S. elections. In 1966 and 1974, Congress had blocked foreign nationals from donating to political parties instead of directly to candidates.

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.

Alien Gag Law violations carry a maximum penalty of a $10,000 fine and a five-year prison sentence, according to the complaint.

In dismissing that case five months ago, the Washington panel said it cited "more than a century of Supreme Court case law that foreign citizens in the United States enjoy many of the same constitutional rights that U.S. citizens do."

"In those many decisions, the Supreme Court has drawn a fairly clear line: The government may exclude foreign citizens from activities 'intimately related to the process of democratic self-government.'"

The judges noted, however, that they did not decide whether Congress could constitutionally extend the statutory band to lawful permanent residents or whether it could prohibit foreign nationals from other political speech, like donating to outside groups that subsequently give money to candidates.

The panel also cautioned the government about fining and jailing Alien Gag Law violators.

"There are many aliens in this country who no doubt are unaware of the statutory ban on foreign expenditures, in particular," D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote for the panel.

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