Barack Obama doesn’t have any proof that the conservatives he’s targeted this week have used foreign money in political ads but he’s leveled the accusations anyway. Even the liberal New York Times and Baltimore Sun recoiled at Obama’s unsubstantiated smears.
But a closer examination shows that there 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.
In fact, the controversy over the Chamber of Commerce financing may say more about the Washington spin cycle — where an Internet blog posting can be quickly picked up by like-minded groups and become political fodder for the president himself — than it does about the vagaries of campaign finance.
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.
In addition, more than 160 political action committees active in campaigning have been set up by corporations that are based overseas, including military contractors like B.A.E. Systems and pharmaceutical giants like GlaxoSmithKline, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research service.
Such groups, which collectively have spent hundreds of millions dollars on political causes to advance their agenda, are required by law to ensure that any foreign money they receive is isolated and not used to finance political activities, which would violate a longstanding federal ban. The Chamber of Commerce says it has a vigorous process for ensuring that does not happen, and no evidence has emerged to suggest that is untrue.
Here is what’s so appalling to me: The ad makes the totally unsubstantiated charge that the Chamber of Commerce is taking money from foreign interests and using it to “steal our democracy.” And worse, President Obama is out on the campaign trail, according to the New York Times, creating an echo chamber by making the same reckless claims just as the ad hits the airwaves. And when CBS newsman Bob Schieffer Sunday asks David Axelrod if there is any proof for the claim, the senior Obama aide says they don’t need proof — it’s up to the Chamber of Commerce to prove it isn’t true.
The Democratic National Commitee is using the same sort of tactic and logic that Sen. Joe McCarthy used in the 1950s: Level a headline-grabbing and unsubstantiated charge, like the State Department is filled with communists, and then say it is up to the State Department and the employees so charged to prove it is not true.
So much for hope and change; this is the politics of fear, slander and divisiveness on the eve of an election that looks as if it could deliver a damning verdict on the first two years of the Obama administration.
Here’s the ad in which the Democrats accuse the Chamber of Commerce, Ed Gillespie, and Karl Rove are taking “secret foreign money” to “steal our democracy.”
Truly disgusting. I saw Dana Perino on Fox News today who said, “when this used to be America,” the accuser had to prove the accusations, but in Obama’s new altered state of reality in which we all now live, he and his minions can make any accusations they want, and the accused have to prove the charges are not true. Last year Thomas Friedman expressed his wish that America would to turn into China for a day. It seems his wish is coming true.
Glenn Reynolds reminds us all, however, that the issue of foreign sources of campaign funds dogged the Obama campaign in 2008:
NEW YORK TIMES: Obama’s “foreign money” claims are bogus. They’re also pretty rich, considering how his 2008 campaign handled foreign credit cards. From that National Journal story: “The lack of a computerized address-verification system would allow the Obama campaign’s computers to accept online donations from U.S. citizens above legal limits, and to accept donations from foreigners who are barred by law from contributing at all.” Perhaps its time to remind people of that issue again. Oh, wait, I just did!
Here’s more on that from 2008: “A breakdown of controls has enabled foreign and other unaccountable funds to pour into the Obama campaign — and it’s not an accident.”
Plus, from the Washington Post: Obama Accepting Untraceable Donations. “Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is allowing donors to use largely untraceable prepaid credit cards that could potentially be used to evade limits on how much an individual is legally allowed to give or to mask a contributor’s identity, campaign officials confirmed. Faced with a huge influx of donations over the Internet, the campaign has also chosen not to use basic security measures to prevent potentially illegal or anonymous contributions from flowing into its accounts, aides acknowledged.”
Glenn has many more links to news outlets that were concerned about foreign campaign donations to the Obama campaign.
Update: Michelle Malkin has meticulously chronicled how easy the Obama campaign made it for foreigners to donate directly to his campaign.