The skilled flacks of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – no doubt the best that foreign money can buy – have largely succeeded in obfuscating the issue about the relationship between the Chamber’s $75 million smear campaign against Democrats and the Chamber’s overseas contributors.
The Chamber says it gets only $100,000 per year in dues from its overseas affiliates, the AmChams. So what? The Chamber also solicits foreign companies for direct contributions, and has a second set of foreign affiliates, the Business Councils, to help promote that process.
It’s true that putting foreign money directly into American campaigns is a crime, and there’s no evidence so far that the Chamber has committed that crime. It’s also true that no one outside the Chamber is in a position to say whether the law has been broken or not, and that the Chamber refuses to provide the data.
But the Chamber hasn’t bothered to deny the main point of the ThinkProgress report: that the money it openly solicits from foreign companies goes into the same bank account that funds its political ads. Money is fungible. So if the Chamber gets a contribution from (let’s just imagine) the Bin Laden construction group in Saudi Arabia, it can pay its staff and overhead expenses with that money, and use some of its domestic proceeds – money it wouldn’t otherwise have available – to buy itself a friendly Congress.
The difference between a Russian or Chinese or Saudi company making a contribution to the Chamber for use in U.S. elections, and the same company making the same contribution to the same organization nominally for some other use, but which allows the Chamber to spend more money to influence U.S. elections, is just precisely no difference at all.
The Chamber can put an end to the controversy at any time, by simply publishing the same information about its money sources required of any political campaign. So far, it hasn’t done so. What is the Chamber hiding?