Yesterday, ThinkProgress reported an exclusive story on how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — the big business lobbying juggernaut running an unprecedented $75 million dollar attack campaign against Democrats in midterms this year — is actively fundraising from foreign corporations and foreign nationals, and depositing the money in the same 501(c)(6) account used to run its campaign advertisements. Dues from foreign corporations have flowed into the Chamber’s coffers, including from government-run companies like the State Bank of India and the Bahrain Petroleum Company. ThinkProgress has reported at least $300,000 in foreign money to the Chamber from Bahrain and India alone.
Following ThinkProgress’ report, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) wrote to the FEC — a federal agency that has ironically “been rendered toothless by its Republican members” — asking it to launch an investigation and to insist that foreign companies prove whether their funds had been used in campaign activities. Today, outside of a fundraiser for Nevada’s GOP U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle at the National Republican Campaign Committee, ThinkProgress asked Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), a candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri, if he would comment on the story. After hearing the question, Blunt quickly turned and began walking away briskly towards the Union Station building. He initially simply ignored the question, then took out his phone and pressed it against his face. Eventually, Blunt replied, “I have no idea what you’re talking about” and told ThinkProgress to “talk to the Chamber”:
TP: Congressman Blunt? We reported at ThinkProgress yesterday that the Chamber of Commerce is accepting money from foreign corporations and using that same bank account for buying attack ads. If you’re elected to the Senate will you investigate this? Excuse me, Roy Blunt? Sir, the Chamber of Commerce has admitted that it’s accepting foreign money from businesses like the Bahrain Petroleum Company and they’re using that same bank account to run attack ads. Will you investigate the use of foreign money in our election[s]?
TP: Congressman Blunt? Pardon me, Congressman Blunt? Congressman Blunt? [BLUNT takes out cellphone] We reported yesterday at ThinkProgress that the Chamber of Commerce is fundraising from foreign companies, in India and Bahrain and many other places, uh, they’re using that same bank account run attack ads. Are you going to investigate this? [...]
BLUNT: …And the event went fine. Good. Good. Really? Okay.
TP: Excuse me, Congressman Blunt? I have a membership application that the Chamber of Commerce is distributing in Bahrain asking for funds for the same bank account – the same campaign account – used to run campaign advertisements here in America. Do you have any comment on that?
BLUNT: I have no idea what you’re talking about. Talk to the Chamber, I have no idea.
In August, Blunt announced that he received the Chamber’s endorsement. Currently, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is running hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of ads trashing Blunt’s Democratic opponent, Robin Carnahan. The ads are run out of the same 501(c)(6) account used to fund raise from foreign sources.
Notably, Blunt has voted for many of the Chamber’s top priorities, including unfettered free trade deals, protecting tax loopholes for companies that ship jobs overseas, and against Wall Street regulatory reform.