How a Mexican Billionaire Gamed the U.S. Election System

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Now you don’t even need a U.S. passport to try and buy an American election. Just don’t get caught.

Jose Sususmo Azano Matsura, a Mexican construction magnate, is accused by the federal government of illegally funneling over half a million bucks to political candidates in southern California.

Azano wanted to build political clout in order to remake San Diego’s waterfront into an energetic “Miami West,”The Cable reported this week. But the way he sought to buy support was made possible by a landmark Supreme Court decision that transformed the nation’s campaign finance laws:

What's unique about the allegations is that Azano's money was funnelled through a "Super PAC," a political fundraising vehicle born out of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in 2010. The ruling paved the way for Super PACs to spend unlimited sums of money for candidates with only limited reporting requirements. Although Super PACs have been linked to other campaign finance abuses, a foreign national has never been accused of using one to hide his idenity [sic]. "We are not aware of another example of a similar case," Peter Carr, a public relations officer at the Justice Department, told The Cable. "Super PACs are a new vehicle for political spending."


You can read more about the scandal here.

The Supreme Court in 2012 upheld the ban on foreign contributions in U.S. elections.


But if the allegations are proven true, it could confirm the worst fears of the Citizen United ruling’s opponents — that it could make it easier for foreign interests to discretely influence U.S. elections.

According to the allegations, Azano’s money went into a U.S. shell company before it was placed in the Super PAC. Under current law, the Super PAC was only required to disclose the name of the company, allowing Azano to hide his identity.


Here’s more from The Cable:

"Before Citizens United, in order for a foreign national to try and do this, they'd have to set up a pretty complex system of shell corporations," said Brett Kappel, a campaign finance expert at the law firm Arent Fox. "And even then, there were dollar limits in place. After Citizens United, there are no limits on independent expenditures."


Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.