After a ThinkProgress investigation revealed that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been using foreign money to fund its partisan attack ads this election, the reaction was swift. President Obama said that such groups who receive foreign money are “a threat to our democracy,” while Vice President Biden challenged the Chamber to come clean about the sources of funding for its attack ads.
Many politicians on both sides of the aisle are also piling on. Ron Johnson, the Republican Senate nominee in Wisconsin, told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to disclose its funding. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) was the first to call for a Federal Elections Commission investigation into the Chamber’s foreign money, and that call was echoed this week by Bob Gibbs, a Republican running in Ohio’s 18th congressional district.
Now, Reps. Steve Driehaus (D-OH) and Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH) have added their voices to those calling for a formal investigation. Both candidates are locked in tight races in a state where the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been pumping in lots of attack ads. Last week, the Chamber spent over $250,000 in the 15th district alone attacking Kilroy.
ThinkProgress caught up with both candidates on the campaign trail this week. Driehaus called the Chamber’s refusal to disclose their funding sources “outrageous” and said we should “absolutely investigate it” because it could be “criminal behavior”:
TP: It was revealed last week that the United States Chamber of Commerce, in addition to not disclosing their donors for their attack ads, are actually receiving foreign sources of funding for those attack ads. What’re your thoughts on the situation?
DRIEHAUS: I think it’s outrageous. I think disclosure is absolutely necessary. I support the DISCLOSE Act. I actually sponsored a bill that would require CEOs to come on at the end of every ad and disclose who paid for it and so that they would be in front of the camera saying who they are, who they represent, and that they paid for the ad. Disclosure is what this is all about and we can have disclosure, and if it weren’t for Mitch McConnell and the Senate and the Republican senators, we might have it. But unfortunately, the Republicans don’t want people to know who’s behind the ads and that’s why you’re seeing millions of dollars poured in and nobody knows supporting them. [...]
TP: Some are starting to call for investigations on the topic. I believe Sen. Franken called for an IRS investigation [correction: Franken actually called for an FEC investigation] and surprisingly enough Bob Gibbs, the Republican nominee over in the 18th district, just the other day said that he would want to see the FEC investigate the Chamber of Commerce to make sure that their system – they call it a “system” to segregate their funds – is actually true.
DRIEHAUS: We should absolutely investigate it. This could be criminal behavior. We should look into it, we should investigate it.
Kilroy was equally outraged by the Chamber’s actions, calling it a “real concern for our democracy.” She backed an investigation into their finances and said Sen. Franken “is right on the money in doing that”:
TP: The Chamber of Commerce here in the 15th district has spent over $250,000 in the last week alone with ads attacking you, but it was revealed last week that some of their funding is actually coming from foreign companies. What’re your feelings on that, what’re your thoughts on the situation?
KILROY: I think people really need to ask why that is happening and who is funding these races and what they’re expecting out of a candidate like Steve Stivers. I think it’s a real concern for our democracy in particular to have foreign sources of capital come in to our campaigns. We want to make sure our candidates are here as part of the American electorate and stand up for America. I’m really concerned with money coming from Bahrain, India, other places. What do they want? Do they want foreign tech pools to stay open? Do they want our jobs to keep being outsourced? Or maybe it’s big tobacco. Do they want to put an end to the kind of regulations that we put in to the tobacco industry? It’s really important questions. [...]
TP: Some in Congress are calling for an investigation into whether or not the Chamber is receiving foreign funds, including Sen. Al Franken. Is that something you would back?
KILROY: I think an investigation is very important and I think Sen. Franken is right on the money in doing that. They’ve already admitted that they are getting some foreign funds, and there are some news reports that it may be even bigger than the Chamber has admitted to. So it’s a real concern.