Foreign Corruption of the Political Process Through Social Welfare Organizations

Silber, Norman I. | October 4, 2019

Social welfare organizations are prohibited from channeling foreign contributions to favored political candidates. Prospects for enforcing this prohibition, however, are uncertain. Do federal election laws or tax laws provide effective tools? Are state authorities equipped to hold a nonprofit culpable as an entity, or to hold a manager or board member responsible? These questions are important to understand whether the existing rules safeguard the nonprofit community and the fairness of elections. This Essay concludes that federal tax and election rules are likely to be less effective than the authority vested with state attorneys general to monitor and hold accountable nonprofits and their officers and directors who become vehicles for foreign interference in national elections.


Professor of Law, Maurice A. Deane School of Law, Hofstra University; Senior Research Scholar, Yale Law School. Address inquiries to

I am sincerely grateful to Danielle Berkowsky and the editorial board of NULRO for accepting this Essay and strengthening it; and to Bernardo Lopez, Abigail Bachrach, Eugene Hwangbo, Sophie Frishberg, Olivia Vega, and other staff members of the Northwestern University Law Review Online for thoughtful revisions and sensitive editing; thanks to Ashley Ehman, Zachary Gould and Megan Musachio for many insights and diligence; to Pamela Hines and to law librarian Isaac Samuels.

This Essay developed from a presentation to the 2018 Annual Conference of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and V oluntary Associations. Thanks for helpful comments, criticism, and suggestions from Peter Brann, Evelyn Brody, Putnam Barber, Johnny Rex Buckles, Eugene R. Fidell, Brenner M. Fissell, Eric M. Freedman, Mitchell M. Gans, Daniel J.H. Greenwood, Jennifer A. Gundlach, David C. Hammack, Terri Lynn Helge, Irina D. Manta, Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer, Dana Brakman Reiser, and James E. Tierney.

Copyright 2019 by Norman I. Silber

Cite As: Norman I. Silber, Foreign Corruption of the Political Process Through Social Welfare Organizations, 114 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 104 (2019),