The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has emerged as the bogeyman of the Left this election cycle for allegedly spending foreign money on political campaigns. The Chamber has pledged to spend up to $75 million on political advocacy this year (though it has spent only some $23 million so far), mainly in support of GOP candidates.
ThinkProgress.org has cast the Chamber as public enemy number one. The blog, a unit of the Center for American Progress, alleged last week that because the Chamber accepts nominal dues from its foreign affiliates, it is illegally spending foreign funds on American politics. The Chamber flatly denied the unsubstantiated charge, noting that the funds are used for international operations and that it maintains a standard accounting procedure to ensure that such funds are not spent on U.S. politics. Furthermore, under campaign-finance law, the Chamber cannot coordinate its spending with individual candidates.
MoveOn.org built upon the ThinkProgress conspiracy theory, falsely alleging
in a letter to the Department of Justice that the Chamber solicited foreign donations for political spending by hosting a former U.S. ambassador at an event in China to “communicat[e] to them the importance of the U.S. elections.” But that’s not accurate: A description of the event explicitly noted that the official “will not advocate any course of action, but will draw on his White House background to discuss likely consequences of the mid-terms.”
MSNBC host Ed Schultz went so far as to charge that those who accept the Chamber’s explanation are un-American: “If you’re on the side that’s getting all the money, then you keep your mouth shut,” he said last Wednesday. “Well, I challenge you: That’s not American.”
Rep. Tom Perriello (D., Va.) likewise said the alleged activities were “beyond outrageous, to being fundamentally un-American and undemocratic.” Perriello then called on his Republican opponent to denounce the Chamber. Oops. Perhaps someone should tell Perriello that the Chamber has endorsed 14 of his Democratic colleagues and is running ads in support of at least ten of them. Scandalous!
Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.) piled on with a letter to the Federal Election Commission demanding a thorough investigation, despite conceding that the Chamber’s activity is “not per se illegal.” That’s lawyer-speak for “legal.”
The notion that a minimal amount of funding from the Chamber’s foreign affiliates — a few hundred thousand dollars, according to various reports — is being used to fund the Chamber’s planned political budget of $50 to $75 million is laughable.
Nevertheless, ThinkProgress bloggers, leading Democrats, and even President Obama think it’s inappropriate to simply “trust” the Chamber’s explanation of its accounting practices. Essentially, they are holding the business group guilty until proven innocent.
Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer recently asked White House advisor David Axelrod, “Do you have any evidence that it’s anything other than peanuts?” Axelrod responded by saying, “Well, do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?”