Foreign Money in American Politics?

"Mr. Olson, are you taking the position that there is no difference in the First Amendment rights of an individual?" she asked. "Would that include today's mega-corporations, where many of the investors may be foreign individuals or entities?"

After being pressed on the question by Justice John Paul Stevens, Olson replied, "I would not rule that out."

Jan Baran, an election lawyer who hailed the court's opinion, noted that Justice Anthony Kennedy explicitly chose not to address the question of foreign contributions in his majority opinion. And he even opened the door to a future Supreme Court case to deal with the issue.

"There's nothing in this opinion that implies how the court would rule if it got this issue before them," Baran said.

But some of the justices have offered clues about their thinking on the issue. Justice Samuel Alito noted during the September arguments that foreign-owned media corporations have the same First Amendment rights that American companies do. Republican campaign lawyer Trevor Potter said Kennedy's opinion also hinted at his desire to see the issue of foreign money debated.

"I think it's a very clear signal that there is some interest in that argument," Potter said. "And maybe, that he believes there shouldn't be restrictions on anybody."

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