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H.R. 1 is Dangerous for Democracy

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Now that the shutdown is over (for now), it’s time for Congress to get to governing. Unfortunately, lawmakers seem to prefer red herrings and faux populist outrage to tackling the most pressing issues of the day. Case in point: H.R. 1, otherwise known as “For The People Act.”

Introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), this political “reform” legislation uses the boogeymen of “dark money” and foreign influence to curtail First Amendment protections and eviscerate donor privacy. Instead of misguided restrictions on cherished freedoms, Congress should move toward genuine campaign finance reforms that allow parties to hold interest groups in check.

If you ask the average citizen what “foreign election meddling” means, any number of things might come to mind. At an extreme, “meddling” can mean a foreign power hacking into voting machines, which would require an immediate and massive federal effort to quash. Or it could be something far more commonplace and indirect, such as an American subsidiary of a foreign company donating to a cause or candidate.

But the sweeping provisions of H.R. 1 focus far more on the latter, innocuous behavior than election machine hacking. The proposed law, for instance, bans U.S.-based subsidiaries of foreign companies donating to........

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