The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been in the news a lot lately and for good reason. They are one of the larger contributors to political campaigns for Republicans in particular. They also have a great deal of foreign membership and get a lot of foreign money. One of the reasons they’ve been in the news so much recently is the concern over how much foreign money may be influencing United States elections.
Think Progress has done a great deal of research on the Chamber money trail and have a couple of recent posts worth reading if you’re not familiar with the issue. One shows a graphic illustrating how the Chamber gets its foreign money.
One thing that caught my attention was how much money the Chamber is spending on political campaign attack ads:
Earlier this week, a ThinkProgress investigation found that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been raising funds from foreign-based corporations to solicit funding for their general 501(c)(6) entity, and that entity runs approximately $75 million worth of partisan attack ads. This week alone, the Chamber ran nearly $10.5 million in attack ads in many of the most competitive elections in America. Republican candidates in the nine Senate and 22 House districts are benefiting from the Chamber’s support.
According to Campaign Money Watch, some of that $10.5 million is going to Florida candidates. One of the top three candidates benefiting from the largest sums is none other than Marco Rubio. Rubio has received $1,000,000. That amount is topped by only two other candidates on the list, Carly Fiorina in California and Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire. Rubio is not the only Florida candidate getting those funds.
Expenditures for Republican candidates in Florida filed by the Chamber on Oct. 5 were the following:
Marco Rubio $1,000,000, for attack ads against Charlie Crist (I-FL)
Sandy Adams $250,000, for attack ads against Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL)
Dan Webster $250,000, for attack ads against Alan Grayson (D-FL)
Also from the Campaign Money Watch site:
Campaign Money Watch today called on 31 federal candidates to join its effort to demand the U.S. Chamber of Commerce answer questions about the use of its foreign corporate dues in political advertising.
The letter sent to those candidates reads in part:
Recent news coverage surfaced significant and serious questions about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce use of foreign corporate funding for electoral activities. We are also troubled that evidence suggests that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in raising money overseas, has promised to represent the business interests of foreign corporations in Washington, D.C.
Since the Chamber has spent money in your election, we urge you to join us in demanding that the Chamber answer these important questions about their foreign funding and their representation of those overseas corporations. If they cannot or will not provide evidence to back up their claims, we urge you to join us in demanding that the Chamber remove all advertising or other electoral activities from your race…..
….This recent revelation goes beyond simple disclosure of campaign spending. The Chamber’s acceptance of foreign corporate money into the same account from which it is funding attack ads crosses the line of democratic decency. But the Chamber’s response to this question of mingling foreign and domestic dues has been inadequate. A spokeswoman told a Washington Post reporter, “We don’t feel obligated to answer that question.”
This is a dangerous precedent to let stand. Unfortunately, the Chamber’s response so far has been to attempt to dismiss the allegations as if no principles were involved, and to loudly criticize those posing questions as political partisans. The Chamber diminishes the criticism by claiming that very little money has been received from overseas affiliates and dues-paying corporations. But it is not partisan politics that is at stake; rather, serious democratic principles and laws are potentially being violated. The law does not distinguish between small and large amounts of foreign corporate money influencing American elections. All foreign corporate money is prohibited.
Moreover, by accepting the dues of foreign corporations, the Chamber is operating as the political outpost for those interests in Washington by pledging to mold public opinion to benefit their members. The method the Chamber is employing today to shape public opinion is electoral advertising in your race and others around the country….
….We are not asking you to criticize the Chamber. We are simply asking you to join with us to “trust, but verify.” It is the very least that you, as a candidate for high office seeking the public’s trust, can do.
A copy of the entire letter to candidates can be read here.
It will be interesting to see if any of those Republican candidates will do what the letter asks. But for the party that never appears in public without a flag pin on their lapel, claims they are the party who most “support the troops” and the party that “keeps America safe” and are quick to call anyone who doesn’t agree with them “un-American,” I would like to see them put that money where their talking points are and honor this request.
As for Marco Rubio, his standard stump speech spouts that America is the greatest country in the world, that America is “exceptional” and that he “wants to take the country back.” I think he should explain to those who would vote for him and all the American people just where he wants to take the country back to? So far Rubio’s campaign has been funded not only by the Chamber, but by Dick Armey and FreedomWorks, Karl Rove and American Crossroads, which some have called for an investigation of, and several others, and those are just the ones we know of.
Call me crazy, but I think we deserve to know where the money is coming from.
The citizens of this country are the ones these candidates are elected to represent. Not the foreign countries who fund their campaigns.
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