Will the Citizens United Ruling Let Hugo Chavez and King Abdullah Buy U.S. Elections? Supreme Court Ruling May Open Door to Foreign State-Owned Corporate Political Spending By Aaron Mehta and Josh Israel | January 22, 2010 While political observers have dissected much of yesterdays 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, one potentially huge (and probably unintended) consequence has gotten little notice: the impact the decision could have on foreign government spending on federal campaigns. The ruling essentially gives corporations the same rights as individuals in their ability to spend freely on political advertising, even if those advertisements explicitly advocate the election or defeat of a federal candidate. This means that candidates who support, say, increased restrictions on tobacco products could find themselves up against the corporate treasury of say, a major American tobacco company. And even the fear of $10 million in attack ads blanketing the airways come re-election time may give sitting legislators pause before taking on moneyed industries. But its one thing for U.S. firms to have their say. What about foreign companies that operate U.S. subsidiaries? Many of these, like American businesses, are owned by ordinary shareholders but a host of others are owned, in whole or in part, by the foreign governments themselves. One prominent examples is CITGO Petroleum Company once the American-born Cities Services Company, but purchased in 1990 by the Venezuelan government-owned Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. The Citizens United ruling could conceivably allow Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has sharply criticized both of the past two U.S. presidents, to spend government funds to defeat an American political candidate, just by having CITGO buy TV ads bashing his target. And its not just Chavez. The Saudi government owns Houstons Saudi Refining Company and half of Motiva Enterprises. Lenovo, which bought IBMs PC assets in 2004, is partially owned by the Chinese governments Chinese Academy of Sciences. And Singapores APL Limited operates several U.S. port operations. A weakening of the limit on corporate giving could mean China, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and any other country that owns companies that operate in the U.S. could also have significant sway in American electioneering. The Center for Public Integrity | Latest from the Center - Will the Citizens United Ruling Let Hugo Chavez and King Abdullah Buy U.S. Elections?