SJ City Council passes draft proposal to ban foreign body political donations

The San Jose City Council voted 9-1 on Tuesday on a bill to ban foreign-influenced corporations from making political contributions to San Jose municipal elections.

According to the adopted draft proposal, the new campaign finance law would not allow companies owned 1% or more by a single foreign national or 5% or more by several foreign nationals to incur political expenses during elections. municipal. While Tuesday’s proposal was merely a political memorandum on the wording of the final draft ordinance, its passage was seen as a major indicator that the San Jose City Council would pass the ordinance in the coming weeks.

Under the proposed law, most members of the S&P 500 would not be able to make contributions or spend money on city candidates through means such as political action committees. In San Jose, this would effectively block Silicon Valley heavyweights such as Alphabet (Google), Apple and Meta (Facebook).

If enacted, San Jose will join cities like Seattle and St. Petersburg, Fla., which have passed similar ordinances in recent years. Seattle, who adopted their ordinance in 2020, imposed their restrictions after businesses in the city began donating seven-figure sums to local candidates, such as a candidate for Seattle City Council who single-handedly received $1 million from Amazon through contributions from the CAP. By increasing their ordinance, San Jose lawmakers hope to prevent similar contributions from being made there and to remove foreign influence in the city’s countryside. In addition to San Jose, state-level bills are currently pending in the California and New York legislatures, with Congress also considering such a bill.

Council members argued Tuesday that the draft proposal was passed to maintain the integrity of the election and to hold lawmakers accountable to taxpayers, not corporations.

“In my mind, electoral integrity and where the money comes from and how it flows in municipal and other elections, that to me is at the very heart of our democracy,” Councilman Sergio Jimenez said Tuesday.

Outside organizations, such as the Center for American Progress think tank and Free Speech for People, also agreed.

“The bill is an important tool to protect the San Jose election because foreign investors owned 40% of the American company’s capital in 2019, up from 4% in 1986,” Center senior fellow Michael Sozan said on Tuesday. for American Progress. “This is a common-sense ordinance that would strengthen the right of San Jose residents to determine the political and economic future of their city, build public trust and help ensure lawmakers are accountable. to voters rather than to societies under foreign influence. ”

Free Speech For People President John Bonifaz added, “The San Jose City Council’s passage of this model bill marks a major victory for our democracy. Lawmakers across the country are working to advance this critical reform to address the threat of foreign corporate money in our elections and to defend our democracy. We commend San Jose for leading the way in addressing this threat and protecting its elections.

Concern over draft language from many city lawmakers

Despite passing Tuesday, many San Jose lawmakers expressed concern about the proposed ordinance because it could choose what foreign influence is allowed in elections. It could also lead to numerous lawsuits against the city due to the blanket ban on corporate political donations.

“We have real issues like homelessness, litter on our streets, lack of enough police especially in traffic enforcement because many know I have a real problem with that,” he said. Councilwoman Dev Davis, the only council member to vote against the ordinance, said Tuesday. . “I just think we shouldn’t pass moot and dubious constitutional issues like frankly the guns ordinance or this proposed action.”

Mayor Sam Liccardo also voiced concern Tuesday about the ordinance which only adds to the number of costly lawsuits the city is already facing this year, including one over a recently passed ordinance requiring weapons insurance. guns for all gun owners in town.

“My concern is that we are passing legislation that would essentially create a blanket ban and this is a great opportunity for some litigants to sue us and drag us into a lot of litigation,” Mayor Liccardo noted.

The ordinance is expected to be presented to the San Jose City Council in the coming weeks.