Erik Paulsen backs bill allowing foreign powers to influence U.S. elections on the sly

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The congressman gives his thumbs up to allowing countries like Saudi Arabia to secretly influence U.S. elections by barring anyone from ever knowing about their involvement.

Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Eden Prairie) was feeling bumptious Wednesday when he hopped on Facebook.

"The Protect Medical Innovation Act," he wrote, "suspends a job-crushing, innovation-stifling tax on American manufacturers."

But the author of the regally titled legislation forgot to mention one important fact. 

He's sticking taxpayers with a $25 billion tab over the next decade by saving the likes of Medtronic tens of millions of dollars yearly with the repeal of the 2.3 percent tax on medical devices that was enacted originally to help pay for the Affordable Care Act.

Now Paulsen, the recipient of more than $500,000 in donations from the industry, has thrown his wealthy handlers another bone. He cast a vote for a bill that would allow tax-exempt groups from ever having to reveal its donors — even to the federal government.

In other words, shill organizations masquerading as nonprofits like the Medical Device Innovation Consortium could spend gobs of money on mailers and TV commercials come election time, and nobody would be wiser as to who's behind the cause or why. 

Under current law, 501(c) organizations like the medical industry advocate Consortium don’t have to reveal their donors to the public, but they do have to disclose any contributors giving more than $5,000 to the IRS. This allows the feds to vet for influences like cash from foreign governments.  

The GOP-controlled House took a big step toward nixing this regulatory inconvenience. It passed the grandly titled Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act on Tuesday. Paulsen's vote was among the 240 backers.  

If it were to ultimately become law, any nonprofit from the Consortium to the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the political arm of billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, would never have to worry about the feds knowing whose behind of the attacks. Hence, the reason it's referred to as "dark money."

This could include foreign governments.

Critics of bill, like Common Cause and the Sunlight Foundation, which work toward campaign finance reform and greater transparency, flag the bill as "misguided legislation" that "could effectively open up a loophole allowing foreign money in elections."

While cash from outside countries isn't allowed in U.S. elections, the Sunlight Foundation notes, "It can be deposited into these nonprofits — which can then spend that money in elections while keeping the identity of donors hidden. By removing the only way the government has of vetting these contributions, the bill would prevent the IRS from safeguarding U.S. elections from the influence of foreign companies and individuals." 

Paulsen did not respond to repeated interview requests. 


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