Foreign Influence in Elections is Wrong: Ours or Theirs

Abolish the NED and Return USAID to development: Call your elected officials and candidates! Challenge your leaders to support democracy!

The political class – at least the Democrat part of it – is all aghast at the possibility that contributions by foreign corporations are tainting our electoral system. The Alliance for Global Justice Respect for Democracy Campaign is aghast too that corporations – foreign or domestic – have a greater voice in our political system than we do. But, we’d like to ask those Democrats who are now so indignant, “If foreign money is corrupting our political system, and therefore is a threat to democracy, why do you vote each year to allocate millions of US taxpayer dollars to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) so-called democracy promotion programs when their sole purpose is to influence other countries’ electoral systems?”

We agree that foreign corporations should not be able to spend money to influence our elections. We think it is just as wrong for our government to spend money to influence elections in other countries. In this case neither the goose nor the gander is getting anything good out of the deal.

In 1990, the NED spent $20 per Nicaraguan voter to promote the electoral defeat of the Sandinista government. To put that into context, in 1988, George H. W. Bush and Walter Mondale combined spent only $7.81 per US voter. In 2006, US Ambassador Paul Trivelli told a delegation of ours that he had $12-$13 million to spend on the Nicaraguan presidential election that year. The same year, Associated Press learned through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that the US spent $23 million to support candidates and organizations opposed to President Hugo Chavez’ re-election campaign in Venezuela. The names of the recipients were blacked out, but the amounts were released. Venezuelan/US author Eva Golinger, in her books The Chavez Code and Bush vs. Chavez used other FOIA requests to blow the lid off the secret US efforts to manipulate Venezuelan democracy.

The list goes on and on. Golinger recently published an article which exposed that the US government continues to spend millions of dollars in a continuing effort to build opposition to the Bolivarian process of participatory democracy. It is impossible to get contemporary information about the secretive expenditures of NED and USAID, but overall budgets, if not the specific grants, can be gleaned from their past reports. It is apparent, for instance, that USAID expenditures in Honduras suddenly spiked at the same time that President Manuel Zelaya was raising the minimum wage and joining the ALBA cooperative trade group. Bolivia expelled USAID from several prefectures (states) where they were attempting to build an opposition to elected President Evo Morales.

It is not only in Latin America that the US is spending millions of taxpayer dollars to influence elections. Congress doubled NED’s budget soon after the invasion of Iraq, with most of the additional money earmarked for Iraq. NED core groups, the National Democratic Institute, and the International Republican Institute, along with sister groups from the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, are up to their armpits in grants and money laundering distributed to political parties and so-called civil society groups that oppose governments that the US government wants to change.

The brouhaha over the possibility that foreign money is tainting the already obscene expenditures that the Chamber of Commerce is “investing” in this year’s congressional elections has created the perfect “teaching moment” for US democracy advocates. Now is the time to challenge your elected officials to not only remove the possibility of foreign influence in US elections, but also to pledge to remove US government influence in other countries’ elections.

Write letters, make phone calls, and challenge your Senators and Representative in public appearances in your district to state that foreign influence in elections is a serious threat to democracy. Ask them to pledge to remove it from our own elections and to remove our influence in the elections of other countries. Ask for their pledge to abolish the mis-named National Endowment for Democracy and to return USAID to its development and disaster mission and to get it out of the election manipulation business. Challenge political candidates to do the same.

Contact Senators and Representatives in their offices.