WASHINGTON -- Some of the nation's most generous political contributors took a stand yesterday against a proposed rule that would bar foreign-owned American companies from forming political action committees to help finance U.S. election campaigns.
If adopted, the rule could knock out close to $3 million in donations from the next election cycle. Foreign-owned companies contributed $2.8 million to political races in 1988.
But company employees, not owners, supply the money that fuels PACs, and barring foreign-owned company PACs would unfairly penalize employees of those companies, according to Martin D. Garber Jr., president of the National Association of Business Political Action Committees.
Mr. Garber and others spoke yesterday at a Federal Election Commission hearing on the proposed rule, which would affect U.S. companies that are more than 50 percent foreign-owned.
Mr. Garber said that all company PACs, regardless of the NTC nationality of the company's owner, are under fire by would-be reformers, "and now they [the foreign-company PACs] are caught in a trumped-up frenzy of concern over foreign influence in this country."
U.S. laws already prohibit foreign control of such PACs, Mr. Garber said.
Supporters of the bill, however, say it is naive to assume that foreign owners have no control over the money raised by the PACs of their U.S. subsidiaries.
Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, D-Texas, a leader of the movement to ban such PACs, wrote to the election commission in favor of the proposal, saying that the current system "creates inevitable pressures on employees to use their PAC muscle in ways acceptable to the corporate masters in London or Frankfurt or Tokyo. . . . If national sovereignty means anything, it should mean that we who live here can freely decide who may make and execute our laws."