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In recent years, several laws have been passed in Russia, which make it harder for foreign organizations to influence Russian politics. The critics of those laws regard them as undemocratic.

Their proponents claim that they cannot be undemocratic because

  1. most of these laws were copied from American ones,
  2. the United States is the most democratic country in the world,
  3. hence, by doing the same thing the US does, Russia gets closer to the American democratic ideal.

If item 1 of this logic is correct, it must be illegal for non-American individuals and organizations to exert influence on American politics. The probably most important way to do so is to give donations to politicians.

Therefore my question: Is an American politician allowed to receive donations from a non-American citizen living outside the US?

In other words: If I as a Russian citizen wanted to make a donation to, say, Donald Trump, could he legally accept it?

  • It's not quite an "in other words." One could both be a Russian citizen and an American citizen. It is not against US law to have other citizenships. And any US citizen, whether natural-born or naturalized, is not a foreign national. – grovkin Jul 21 '17 at 22:20
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Title 52, section 30121 of the US Code is the section regulating election spending by foreign nationals. Specifically, it forbids both making and accepting said contributions, as well as banning independent expenditures:

(a) Prohibition

It shall be unlawful for-

(1) a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make-
(A) a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election;
(B) a contribution or donation to a committee of a political party; or
(C) an expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication (within the meaning of section 30104(f)(3) of this title); or

(2) a person to solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (1) from a foreign national.

(1) would get you. (2) would get Trump. Extradition may be difficult, but you have committed a US crime if Trump takes that contribution, and if you do turn up in the US then the US might prosecute you for it (they almost certainly won't, but they could).

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