-By Del Quentin Wilber
August 8, 2011- A three-judge federal panel on Monday upheld a ban on campaign donations by foreigners.
The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by two Canadians challenging the legality of U.S. laws that block the financial influence of foreigners in elections.
The Canadians — one has dual Israeli citizenship — have visas to legally live and work in the United States, and they sued the Federal Election Commission to allow them to donate to political candidates and committees.
In a unanimous opinion issued in the District’s federal court, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote that it wasn’t even a close call for Congress to ban such contributions.
“It is fundamental to the definition of our national political community that foreign citizens do not have a constitutional right to participate in, and thus may be excluded from, activities of democratic self-government,” wrote Kavanaugh, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He was joined on the special three-judge panel by U.S. District judges Rosemary M. Collyer and Ricardo M. Urbina.
The ruling may be appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. Warren Postman, an attorney for the Canadians, said that “we are reviewing the opinion and plan to appeal.”
The Supreme Court last year blocked a ban on political spending by corporations. Although the court did not resolve questions about campaign donations by foreigners in that case, Kavanaugh wrote that its 5-4 majority decision was consistent with such a ban.