Money, Money, Money

It’s all about the money. Follow the money. Show me the money. American elections have always been about the money and who has the most. The system has made it very expensive requiring candidates to spend massive amounts of time courting millionaires and corporations to donate to their campaigns. Senator Bernie Sanders raised millions with small donors and a populist message. People liked him, they really liked him but no enough to get him the Democratic nomination. (And, no, the DNC didn’t fix the primaries. Sen. Sanders had lost the primary in April, a month before the DNC e-mail exchange. That is not to say that those e-mails weren’t disgusting and revealed a bias that, unfortunately, is not without precedent.) From that experience, we can actually say that money isn’t everything but it sure helps.

Since the Supreme Court rules that corporations are people with, the misnamed imo, Citizens United the flood gates of corporate money have opened. It is still illegal for candidates to accept money from foreign donors. Many watch dog groups have wondered how, with so many multinational corporations, campaigns would keep out foreign money. Up until now, there has been no evidence that foreign money has poured into campaigns. In a four part series, Foreign Influence at The Intercept by Lee Fang and Jon Schwarz, documents have been discovered that reveals a Chinese national couple donated over one million dollars to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign and received advise from a Republican lawyer, Charlie Spies.

The Intercept has determined that a corporation owned by a Chinese couple made a major donation to Jeb Bush’s Super PAC Right to Rise USA — and it did so after receiving detailed advice from Charlie Spies, arguably the most important Republican campaign finance lawyer in American politics.

As Robert Weissman, president of the nonprofit advocacy organization Public Citizen, said, “We know that Citizens United opened the door for foreign money to influence U.S. elections. This case appears to be the first instance in federal elections where the money trail is clear and documentable from publicly available records.”

Spies presented his advice in a memo, obtained by The Intercept, which he prepared for Right to Rise USA, where he served as treasurer and general counsel. “We conclude,” he wrote, “that a domestic subsidiary corporation may now directly contribute to a Super PAC in connection with a federal election.”

The Spies memo was dated February 19, 2015. One month later, American Pacific International Capital Inc., a California corporation owned by Gordon Tang and Huaidan Chen, a married couple who are citizens of China and permanent residents of Singapore, made a $1 million donation to Right to Rise USA. APIC subsequently gave the group an additional $300,000, its total donation of $1.3 million making APIC one of the Bush Super PAC’s largest contributors.