A DW analysis of campaign finance data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics finds that US subsidiaries of international companies have so far spent almost ten million dollars (9.8 million euros) supporting candidates in this election cycle with most of the contributions coming from European-based firms ($8.6 million). The only other foreign, but non-European-based, companies that have spent money on the US election so far hail from five countries: Japan ($597,000), Israel ($159,000), Canada ($108,000), Mexico ($61,000) and Australia ($32,000). While foreign nationals without permanent US residence status and foreign entities are prohibited from contributing to US elections, American subsidiaries of foreign companies are not. Just like their US counterparts, they can legally establish so-called Political Action Committees (PACs) to collect contributions for political candidates from their US employees and families. All PACs are registered with the Federal Election Commission. “It doesn’t surprise me,” said James Davis, dean of the School of Economics and Political Science at St. Gallen University in Switzerland, when asked about the fact that PACs set up by European-based companies have so far contributed more than eight million dollars to the US election campaign.
PACs and Super PACs, noted Davis, these days are major players in articulating their political interests, a trend that has been only growing since the US Supreme Court’s historic Citizens United decision which drastically loosened campaign finance rules. “And the way you make yourselves heard in American politics today is that you make a big donation,” said Davis.
The biggest spender among foreign-affiliated PACs is the one set up by Swiss banking giant UBS. It contributed $741,750 to Congressional candidates with most of the money going to Republicans.
Recipients of UBS PAC money were, for instance, Republican Congressman Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the US House Financial Services Committee and Republican Congressman Sean Duffy, chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations both of which received the largest contribution ($10,000, respectively). The House Financial Services Committee has jurisdiction over the banking and financial sector.
Asked by DW about details of its spending policy on the US election, UBS said in a statement that, “the UBS political action committee (PAC) gives equally to political candidates on a bipartisan basis as part of our goal of being engaged with the House and Senate on public policy issues.” The bank added that “the UBS PAC does not give to presidential candidates, party conventions or any Super PACs.”