Liberals are so angry that conservatives are outspending them this election cycle, the president, MSNBC and left-wing bloggers have resorted to attacks on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Liberal website Think Progress, an arm of the George Soros-funded Center for American Progress, claimed that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was soliciting foreign money and using it for political attack ads here in the United States. It’s a serious charge since it is illegal to spend foreign money on domestic elections, yet the left-wing group offered no evidence to support the charge.
Lee Fang of Think Progress appeared on MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” to present those allegations, but instead of supplying proof of wrongdoing Fang claimed the Chamber should prove their innocence. “They haven’t proved that there’s some firewall [for foreign funds]. They’re just saying, hey, trust us,” Fang said.
Olbermann ate up those claims, repeating them as fact and bashing the Chamber on multiple nights of his program. He even called the group “something like the Manchurian Chamber of Commerce” on Oct. 8.
The attacks “delighted” liberal bloggers, especially at The Huffington Post, who have continued to accuse the Chamber of wrongdoing. Howie Klein wrote a post arguing that Communist China wants the GOP in charge and suggested the way China is “taking over the U.S. government” is through the Chamber of Commerce. Another post on Oct. 13 called for the Chamber to “open its books for inspection.”
Mainstream liberal outlets like The Los Angeles Times bolstered the Think Progress’ claim on Oct. 7 saying the charge was “gaining traction.” An editorial in The New York Times on Oct. 5, pointed out that it is illegal for “foreign corporations, countries and individuals to make political contributions in the United States,” but went on to say that we’re living a “Wild West year of political money” and that the ban “is being set aside.” The editorial repeated the claims from Think Progress and urged the government to make sure there haven’t been violations.
Other media outlets were more skeptical, but they still parroted the left-wing outrage over the legality of anonymous donations and presented the Chamber in a negative light, urging it to prove its innocence by releasing donor information.
ABC’s Jake Tapper sarcastically called the Chamber “Courageous!” on Twitter Oct. 12, for refusing an interview with him over the allegations. He later “rescinded” his tweet because the Chamber agreed to an interview.
The Democratic National Committee based an ad of its own on the left-wing claims, calling the Chamber “shills for big business,” who were “stealing our democracy” by using “secret foreign money.”
Comedian Jon Stewart weighed in on the ad in his trademark manner by calling it fear mongering. But instead of spending the bulk of his time mocking liberals for making claims they cannot substantiate he went after Karl Rove and other conservatives. Stewart portrayed Rove and others as hypocrites for not caring about the use of foreign money in elections. Stewart’s segment distorted the basis for conservative outrage over the advertisement, which is the lack of evidence to support the left-wing claim.
President Obama and members of his administration also latched onto the left-wing “smear campaign” and criticized the Chamber and the amount of money flowing into the midterm elections, calling it a “threat to democracy.”
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs recently scolded groups that do not disclose their donors, arguing that people should know who is funding “largely negative campaign attack ads.” But The Daily Caller reported on Oct. 12, that in 2004 Gibbs was “involved with a political advocacy group that refused to reveal its own donors until the law required it.”
But even reporters at the liberal New York Times admitted on Oct. 8 there wasn’t anything to substantiate the lefties’ accusation: “[T]here is little evidence that what the Chamber does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents.”
“Organizations from both ends of the political spectrum, from liberal ones like the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and the Sierra Club to conservative groups like the National Rifle Association, have international affiliations and get money from foreign entities while at the same time pushing political causes in the United States,” the Times continued.
Pat Cleary, writing for the Chamber on Oct. 5, explained that the foreign money in question is connected to the various American Chambers of Commerce (or “AmChams”) in countries around the work. There are 115 AmChams that pay less than $100,000 in membership dues. They are, Cleary explained, “independent organizations, not controlled in any way by the U.S. Chamber, and whose money does not in any way pay for U.S. political activity.” The Chamber’s total budget is over $200 million according to the Times.
Despite Fang’s assertion that the Chamber is using a “loophole,” and Olbermann and other’s allegations of sinister acts, the Chamber “says it has a vigorous process for ensuring” that foreign money is not used to financial political actions. And according to the Times, “no evidence has emerged to suggest that is untrue.”
On Oct. 12, Chamber President Tom Donohue responded by saying, “It’s sad to watch the White House stoop to these depths to try to salvage an election. That’s clearly what this is all about. The administration and its Congressional allies are desperately trying to change the subject away from our stalled economy and nearly double-digit unemployment.”
Donohue said his group would “ramp up efforts to educate voters about the positions of candidates of both parties who are committed to free enterprise and economic growth,” despite the White House “smear campaign.”
Even Mark Halperin of Time magazine saw through the left-wing attacks and pointed out the real purpose on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” saying, “They're trying to smoke the Chamber out I guess and have them release who their donors are so they can get some billionaires and millionaires to go after.”
Media Verdict: Guilty Until Proven Innocent
In the U.S. justice system people are innocent until they are proven guilty. The burden of proof is on the accuser, but not so with political allegations. The left and the media have called for the Chamber of Commerce to prove that they did nothing wrong by disclosing all their donations.
Olbermann ran with the Think Progress allegations against the Chamber, presenting it as a fact on Oct. 8 that foreign money was paying for anti-Democrat ads.
One night earlier, he said: “With tens of millions of dollars pouring into the 2010 elections from secret sources, the charge is on to find out which foreign companies and which U.S. companies operating overseas are secretly funding the campaigns of the U.S. political party that supports sending American jobs overseas.”
Olbermann then included three critics of the Chamber including the president, left-wing Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Leo Gerard of the United Steelworkers union.
Huffington Post blogger Paul Loeb was “delighted” the Democrats’ had used the Think Progress report to launch an attack on the Chamber. He wrote that the business group “and other Republican front groups” were “dumping millions of dollars of untraceable corporate contributions into the election.”
Loeb, Olbermann and others don’t want rich corporate-types “buying” the midterm elections – although the left wasn’t all that concerned when Wall Street was spending millions on Democrats including Obama in 2008.
Nine of the top 25 political contributors for that election cycle were Wall Street banks or investment firms, where 60 percent of the contributions went to Democrats versus 40 percent for Republicans.
The AFL-CIO, one of the many labor unions which heavily favor Democrats in campaign contributions, also has union activity in foreign countries and operates similarly to AmChams. But the lefties didn’t come out condemning the AFL-CIO for funneling “secret foreign money” to candidates.
Yet even liberals like The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein know the allegations against the Chamber are “pretty much bunk.” Klein is upset about the current laws of campaign finance. Liberals want donors’ identities disclosed, even though current laws do not require it. Given the ways the left has attacked conservatives and their donors in the past, it is no surprise that conservatives think anonymity is important.
Stories like an Oct. 11 piece about donor secrecy in The New York Times made anonymity seem like a shady practice instead of a commonly used legal right. That Times which focused on a conservative organization (of course) called the American Future Fund, used scary words like “political operatives” and talked of donors being “lured with the promise of anonymity.”
“The breadth and impact of these privately financed groups have made them, and the mystery of their backers, a campaign issue in their own right,” the Times said – pushing the liberal theme that secret donations are somehow unethical or worse.
Obama’s Chamber Attacks Fit Pattern, Distract from Economy
Since he took office, Obama has been on offense with any critics that came his way. Talk radio host Rush Limbaugh was the first to be attacked by the White House, and that was just three days into the Obama presidency.
A few more shots between the administration and Limbaugh were fired through White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and the mainstream media continued to attack Limbaugh for the administration.
The White House had clearly adopted left-wing activist Saul Alinsky’s strategy of picking targets, freezing, personalizing and polarizing them. And they’ve continued to use it with targets other than right-wing radio hosts.
Promoting the left-wing attacks on the Chamber fit Obama’s pattern of attacking those opposed to his big-government, pro-regulation and tax agenda. It also provided a distraction from criticism of the president’s handling of the economy, coming tax increases (if nothing is done), high unemployment and the failed stimulus package.