Understandably, these groups are incensed by Egypt’s latest moves. So are foreign dignitaries. The past few days have witnessed a litany of indignant statements issued by, among others, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, and even The New York Times. Tensions have mounted so fast and furiously that some even suggest that the 30-year old alliance between Egypt and the United States hangs in the balance.
But should Washington really be surprised? Just consider how the mere allegation of foreign interference in US campaigns has been greeted: In 1996, rumors that Chinese authorities were covertly financing the Democratic National Committee caused a national uproar, culminating in a series of high-profile congressional investigations and 22 convictions of fraud. And when in 2003 allegations surfaced that Swedes and Canadians were contributing money to MoveOn.org, foreigners were accused of plotting to undermine George W. Bush’s re-election. Within days, MoveOn took steps to ban foreign contributions.
Indeed, many democracies have some form of legislation forbidding foreigners from making financial or material donations to domestic political parties. Given their potential to influence and thus, obstruct the will of the people, such donations are believed to be at odds with the democratic process.