|Congressman Faleomavaega announced that he testified
today before the Committee on House Administration in support of legislation
he introduced to amend federal law to clarify that U.S. nationals are eligible
to make contributions to federal candidates. Currently, federal law
specifies that only U.S. citizens and foreign citizens authorized permanent
residence in the United States can make contributions to candidates running
for federal office.
“With the U.S. Senate having passed campaign finance reform legislation,
the House is now holding hearings in preparation for floor consideration
of similar legislation. There are many bills pending before the Committee
on House Administration – some of them address the entire subject, and
others such as the one I introduced address only one point of law,” said
Current law on who can contribute to candidates running for federal
office was enacted well before there was a federal election in American
Samoa. “In an effort to ensure foreign citizens would not unduly
influence federal elections, over 20 years ago Congress adopted legislation
which specifically states that only U.S. citizens and permanent resident
aliens could make contributions to federal candidates. Today, we
have over 100,000 U.S. nationals residing in Hawaii and the continental
United States, and we have a federal election held every two years in American
Samoa,” continued the Congressman.
“Several years ago when I discovered this problem in federal law,
I introduced legislation to specifically include U.S. nationals among those
eligible to contribute to federal candidates, and I requested an advisory
opinion from the Federal Election Commission to cover the period of time
before there was any change in the law. The FEC issued an opinion
stating that U.S. nationals can contribute to candidates running for federal
office,” said Faleomavaega.
“My legislation was included in broader reform legislation which
passed the U.S. House of Representatives in the 106th Congress, but the
bill died in the Senate. This year a bill has already passed the
Senate, and I want to make sure that the U.S. national provision is in
the House bill. The key reform bill in the House this year, known
as ‘Shays-Meehan’, contains my provision, and I am pleased to report that
after I testified the Chairman of the Committee, Congressman Robert Ney
of Ohio, indicated that he expected that the Committee would address the
issue in the Committee bill,” concluded the Congressman.
A copy of the Congressman’s statement is seen below.
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA
before the Committee on House Administration
June 21, 2001
Thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of Section 517
of H.R. 380 which addresses the issue of contributions to federal candidates
by U.S. nationals. In April, I introduced H.R. 1447, a free-standing
bill which also clarifies this technical issue of campaign finance law.
American Samoa is the only jurisdiction under U.S. authority in
which a person can be born with the status of U.S. national, and over half
of the residents of American Samoa are U.S. nationals but not citizens.
A U.S. national is a person who owes his or her allegiance to the United
States, but is not a citizen. U.S. nationals travel with U.S. passports
and are eligible for permanent residence in the United States. They
are not foreign citizens or foreign nationals. In fact, they have
the same privileges and immunities as U.S. citizens, except that
when they live in any state of the United States they cannot hold public
office, vote, serve as commissioned officers in the military services,
or hold positions which require high-level security clearances.
Mr. Chairman, federal campaign law currently specifies that U.S.
citizens and permanent resident foreign nationals may make contributions
to candidates for federal office. This provision was enacted into
law before American Samoa had a delegate in the House of Representatives.
My concern is that if Congress changes this section of campaign finance
law while we know of the U.S. national problem, our action could be interpreted
to mean that Congress intended to prohibit U.S. nationals from contributing
to federal candidates.
This would cause a major problem in American Samoa, because a majority
of the residents of my Congressional district would be prohibited from
contributing to candidates running for federal office, particularly the
office of Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. Moreover,
the U.S. nationals residing in the states and other territories of the
United States, estimated to be approximately 100,000 to 130,000 in number,
would also be prohibited from contributing to federal candidates.
Few U.S. nationals are aware of the U.S. citizen/ U.S. national distinction
made in federal campaign laws, and many contribute to candidates for the
U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and to candidates for U.S. President. A
strict interpretation of existing law could find these candidates in violation
of campaign finance laws for having received contributions from persons
not authorized under the law. Currently, contributions from U.S.
nationals are being accepted based on an advisory opinion issued by the
Federal Election Commission.
The substance of my bill passed the House in the 106th Congress
as part of broader legislation on the subject of campaign finance reform,
but the provision was not enacted into law. I am pleased to note
that the substance of H.R. 1447 is included as Section 517 of H.R. 380,
comprehensive campaign finance legislation introduced by Congressmen Shays
and Meehan. I support this legislation, and respectfully ask the
Committee to use the Shays-Meehan bill as the base bill should the House
address this issue later this Congress.
Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee.