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Report: Foreign-influenced companies give big in WA elections

  • Written by Eric Tegethoff

A report analyzed the impact of money from foreign-influenced corporations on elections in six states. Washington topped the list for most donations.

Seattle is the largest city in the U.S. to ban political contributions from foreign-influenced companies. (JHVEPhoto/Adobe Stock)

OpenSecrets looked at campaign donations from more than 800 companies with 5% aggregate foreign ownership or an individual foreign owner over 1%, to state-level elections between 2018 and 2022.

Washington state took in more than $67 million in contributions during that time. Anna Massoglia is the editorial and investigations manager for OpenSecrets.

"It really underscores the need for transparency to address the challenges posed by these companies," said Massoglia, "that are at least in part foreign owned and more need for the examination of the influence that they yield, as well as who's pulling the strings behind the scenes."

The energy company Phillips 66, Coca-Cola and BP were some of biggest contributors to Washington state elections.

Massoglia said there has been some attempt to crack down on the impact of foreign money on U.S. elections.

"In Washington, the Seattle City Council passed a bill banning political spending on local elections from corporations that met the same threshold for foreign influence," said Massoglia, "that 5% aggregate foreign ownership or 1% individual ownership. But even with that we were still seeing substantial money going into Washington at the state level."

The other states analyzed in this report were Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana and New York. Across the six states, OpenSecrets found more than $163 million in contributions.

Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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