Non-denial denial: is the Chamber of Commerce buying a Republican Congress with foreign funds?

ThinkProgress breaks a fascinating story: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which plans to spend $75 million this year promoting Republican candidates, spends its political money out of its general fund, which openly solicits foreign donors.

When challenged, the Chamber replies that it has careful controls in place (which of course it doesn’t specify; the contributions are secret). Speaking of the American Chambers of Commerce (AmChams), its overseas arms – whose members submit their dues payments directly to the Chamber’s general fund, out of which it buys political ads, a Chamber spokesman says:

AmChams are independent organizations and they do not fund political programs in the United States. We have a system in place for ensuring that they are not government-controlled entities.

Note that the “system” ensures that the AmChams themselves are not “government-controlled,” not that they do not solicit money from government-controlled firms: money that goes directly to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce general fund, which then buys political ads.

Under the wonderful system created by the Citizens United decision, firms owned by the Russian and Chinese and Saudi governments can help fund campaigns that shape the American political process. Sometimes I’m surprised that those American flag pins don’t jump off Republican politicians’ lapels.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

6 thoughts on “Non-denial denial: is the Chamber of Commerce buying a Republican Congress with foreign funds?”

  1. If campaign finance is free speech, then any money foreign lobbyists pay (invest?) is also free speech, right? Oh, what a tangled web.

  2. That's a pretty lame accusation, isn't it? As I understand it, somewhere between 0.1% and 0.05% of the Chamber's funds come from overseas. Obama himself probably had a larger fraction of his campaign funding from overseas sources, illegally, given the way he had the security features disabled on his online donation system to avoid noticing if a donor wasn't in the US.

    I think it's quite possible the President will regret bringing the subject of foreign donations up…

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