Since ThinkProgress first reported on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s foreign sources of funding last week, the Chamber — and its enablers on the right and in the media — have engaged in a whitewash campaign that has deflected attention away from the core issue: that undisclosed monies from foreign entities may be improperly funding the Chamber’s political attack ads.
Yesterday on Fox Business, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) joined in when host Charles Payne asked the Minnesota lawmaker to comment on White House and Democrats’ calls for the Chamber to disclose its donors:
BACHMANN: This is about as low as it goes. It’s more than just disingenious, it’s a flat-out, patent lie. The Chamber of Commerce, who has been accused of taking foreign contributions to spend on elections, is absolutely not doing that. They have a separate political action fund and they use that only from American donors.
The Chamber does indeed have a political action fund. However, its PAC has so far raised $161,000 and spent only $104,000. Yet, the Chamber itself has spent more than $12 million so far this election season (and plans to spend $75 million), largely helping Republican candidates. Why is the Chamber spending so much while its PAC stays on the sidelines? Disclosure. Federal election law requires political action committees to reveal who is giving money to fund its campaign interests.
Prior to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, the Chamber would have had to run its political ads out of its PAC, contributions to which are disclosed. But the Court’s decision allows large corporations — such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns without publicizing their donors. Citizens United provided the Chamber with an end-around campaign finance law. Indeed, after ThinkProgress’s report, the Chamber not only refuses to say where the funding for its $75 million campaign comes from, but also will not prove that it separates foreign from domestic funding. “We are not obligated to discuss our internal procedures,” a spokesperson has said.
“If I was an enterprising reporter…I might ask the Chamber of Commerce to let me see their donors,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said today. “That seems like a pretty simple way to solve the debate…They say they take money from overseas, we know they are spending $75 to $80 billion running ads. Lets see where the money comes from to pay for those ads. There is an easy way to prove it all wrong.”