Chamber of Horrors October 21, 2010Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
Tags: Chamber of Commerce, Republican Party
The Chamber of Commerce is your local real estate agent, your insurance agent, the owner of a local restaurant, etc. in every town in the United States. A repository of civic virtue. At least that used to be the case.
Tom Donahue has turned the Chamber into an aggressive special interest, essentially a fund-raising arm of the GOP, that gets a substantial portion of its money from foreign sources.
Last week, ThinkProgress published an exclusive story about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s foreign fundraising operation. We noted the Chamber raises money from foreign-owned businesses for its 501(c)(6) entity, the same account that finances its unprecedented $75 million dollar partisan attack ad campaign. While the Chamber is notoriously secretive, the thrust of our story involved the disclosure of fundraising documents U.S. Chamber staffers had been distributing to solicit foreign (even state-owned) companies to donate directly to the Chamber’s 501(c)(6).
And most of that money goes straight into GOP attack ads.
The Chamber has promised to spend an unprecedented $75 million to defeat candidates like Jack Conway, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jerry Brown, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), and Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA). As of Sept. 15th, the Chamber had aired more than 8,000 ads on behalf of GOP Senate candidates alone, according to a study from the Wesleyan Media Project. The Chamber’s spending has dwarfed every other issue group and most political party candidate committee spending. A ThinkProgress investigation has found that the Chamber funds its political attack campaign out of its general account, which solicits foreign funding. And while the Chamber will likely assert it has internal controls, foreign money is fungible, permitting the Chamber to run its unprecedented attack campaign. According to legal experts consulted by ThinkProgress, the Chamber is likely skirting longstanding campaign finance law that bans the involvement of foreign corporations in American elections.
But this foreign influence on our elections is not public knowledge.
Of course, because the Chamber successfully lobbied to kill campaign finance reforms aimed at establishing transparency, the Chamber does not have to reveal any of the funding for its ad campaigns.
Here is Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Bruce Josten, explaining why they keep the names of their donors secret:
Corporations, as I said, have employees, vendors, suppliers, and shareholders of all political stripes. They’re not trying to alienate anybody. They’re looking for representative organizations, such as mine and thousands of others, to be an express organization to advocate for them on their behalf.
Whatever else you can say about the flap over the Chamber’s funding sources, this is a notably unpersuasive argument. Josten is essentially saying that rich corporations want the ability to hound and attack anyone in the political sphere they don’t like, but want to be protected from being hounded and attacked by others. That’s nice work if you can get it, but I don’t think most Americans will be sympathetic. If you want to be in the arena, then you need to be in the arena. Being a corporation doesn’t — and shouldn’t — endow you with a special exemption from being attacked if you take controversial political views.
UPDATE: Chamber CEO Tom Donohue, as usual, puts things more bluntly: “I want to give them all the deniability they need,” he says. And he does.
Those patriotic Americans in the GOP aren’t much concerned about foreign influence when it comes to cash.
For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com