Barack Potter & the Chamber of Secrets

Desperate Democrats demonize donors, facts be damned.

As even a good many Kalahari Bushmen must know by now, the flailing Obama administration and droves of Democratic advisors, pundits, allies, and other partisans all the way down to unknown Internet commenters have been pounding the Chamber of Commerce like the redheaded stepchild of a rented mule for over a week. Arising from a hit piece on ThinkProgress,* the secret foreign money being funneled into US elections talking point was quickly debunked. But the fact that it was almost immediately demonstrated to be a non-starter didn’t stop the administration from flogging the story. Instead, they’ve doubled down on this “reckless, sloppy and somewhat McCarthyite” attack again and again.

Leaving aside the oft-mentioned ‘irregularities’ with Obama’s online donations processing during the 2008 campaign, the purity of this pabulum is proof of just how frantic Democrats have become. Unable to run on their record, and facing an electorate that holds them (not their predecessors) accountable for the manifest failure of their policies, they have few options left but to hurl chaff in the air.

It is undisputed that there’s no evidence the Chamber has violated the law. Even Al Franken conceded, in his demand for an FEC investigation, that this was unlikely. As he noted, the law requires that an donating entity with foreign sources of funds:

must be able to demonstrate through a “reasonable accounting method” that its foreign funds were not in fact used in connection with election contributions or expenditures.

This statement is in accord with FEC requirements that a reasonable accounting method shows that the donor has sufficient funds in its account, other than foreign-derived funds, from which the contribution is made. The Chamber self-reports plans to spend $75 million and the foreign dues it collects are about 1/1000th of that amount. So one would think that this talking point would have died quickly and ignominiously, as befits its progenitor.

But that would be to underestimate the desperation of Democrats. The spin now is that no “accounting gimmicks” can excuse this behaviour. Money is fungible, so any amount of foreign money necessarily ends up being expended on US election campaigns because it frees up other money. This is not, of course, an argument the Left accepts where, say, abortion funding is concerned. But in the face of a tsunami of losses, a bunch of rich, faceless, unaccountable foreigners must present a compelling target.

Unfortunately, tortured arguments about shifty, billionaire puppet-masters don’t fly with people who know they’re opposed to the Democrats’ policies in their own right, not because some guy they’ve never heard of gave money to a think tank they’ve never heard of. Likewise, attacking the Chamber of Commerce, then hypocritically raising the stakes day in and day out after the attack’s been proven to be bunk, is even more futile. That leads one to the almost unavoidable conclusion that the real goal of all this sturm und drang about sinister Others and their money isn’t to improve Democrat chances on November 2 but to save face for themselves with their base after November 2.


* The same hacks who brought us the fake Tea Party racism video that was debunked even faster than this was.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Campaign 2010
Dodd Harris
About Dodd Harris
Dodd, who used to run a blog named ipse dixit, is an attorney, a veteran of the United States Navy, and a fairly good poker player. He contributed over 650 pieces to OTB between May 2007 and September 2013. Follow him on Twitter @Amuk3.

Comments

  1. Brummagem Joe says:

    OFFICIAL
    After all the Koch’s are well known for their history of rationality and the fact they’ve laid out millions to fund the tea pary and other organisations cannot be construed in any way as an attempt to influence the political process. To suggest otherwise suggests extreme paranoia amongst Democrats who should seek immediate medical help.

  2. Joe says:

    Are the Democrats so desperate that they’re talking about foreign dollars going into politics instead of more relevant issues?

  3. Brummagem Joe says:

    “Are the Democrats so desperate that they’re talking about foreign dollars going into politics instead of more relevant issues?”

    I’m pleased to see someone has the maturity to point out that allowing special interests from home and abroad to influence our political process is totally unimportant. We need to focus on major issues like the president’s fondness for playing golf.

  4. Alex Knapp says:

    This is one of those fun issues where the legal definitions run completely afoul of real-world definitions. Given that corporations, not just individuals, donate and provide dues to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and given that there’s no law against foreign ownership of stocks in U.S. companies, it’s inevitable that some of the money being used by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in their ads is “foreign money.”

    For example, News Corp. donated $1 million to the UCC this year. The largest shareholder of News Corp. stock is Rupert Murdoch, an Australian. The second largest shareholder of News Corp. is Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal. However, News Corp. is incorporated in Delaware, so under the law, its donation is considered domestic money. But who are they really kidding here?

    Now, personally, I don’t have a problem with that. Free speech is free speech, and foreigners who do business here but can’t vote should have every right to speak out to influence policy and elections that might affect their interests. But using a legal technicality to back out of a substantive critique doesn’t really address the substance of the critique. It’s absolutely accurate that foreign money is being funneled through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to affect U.S. elections. Absolutely accurate that is, except under the law.

  5. Steve Plunk says:

    I think this is the Dem “October surprise” even as pathetic as it is. Foreign money, evil businessmen, shady accounting, it has all the stuff of a scandal without being one. Unfortunately for the Dems Americans are tired of the blame business model of governance.

    With power slipping away the desperation is growing. Desperation can lead to heroic efforts or foolish maneuvers. This is a foolish maneuver likely to leave more and more egg on the face of those pushing the story. It’s the doubling down that tells so much of their mindset. Elitists who believe themselves so much smarter than the average American they can continue to lie until they wear us down and we believe them.

    If there is a billionaire puppet master out there the role has been filled by Soros. If there are evil rich men influencing politics that role has been filled by our own rich politicians like John Kerry. If trust has been lost it’s not been with the Chamber of Commerce who makes jobs but with the government that destroys them.

    It’s funny, I expect another trick like this before the election.

  6. Brummagem Joe says:

    “It’s absolutely accurate that foreign money is being funneled through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to affect U.S. elections. Absolutely accurate that is, except under the law.”

    But the entire US political system is based on legalised bribery. You don’t want to change that surely? That would be to introduce communism into the country.

  7. Brummagem Joe says:

    Steve Plunk says:
    Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 17:03

    Glad to see you’re on the side of billionaires Steve. Your interests and there’s are completely aligned and thank god you have the intelligence to see it.

  8. john personna says:

    The charge that I would be interested in was that the chamber had fund-raised overseas for domestic pro-business lobbying. That seems different than collecting overseas “dues.”

    Now, has that charge gone away, or is fact-check looking at it from some other angle?

  9. ratufa says:

    Alex,

    Rupert Murdoch is an American citizen.

    Steve,

    “Elitists who believe themselves so much smarter than the average American they can continue to lie until they wear us down and we believe them.”

    I hate to break it to you, but not all the people who fit that description are Democrats or people on the left.

  10. Brummagem Joe says:

    john personna says:
    Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 17:17
    “The charge that I would be interested in was that the chamber had fund-raised overseas for domestic pro-business lobbying. That seems different than collecting overseas “dues.”

    You’re right JP, I’m sure the chamber would be completely above board about ANY such attempts. And any suggestion they play shell games with there funds would be a criminal libel. They should sue anyone who suggests such a thing.

  11. Brummagem Joe says:

    ratufa says:
    Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 17:27
    Alex,

    “Rupert Murdoch is an American citizen.”

    Absolutely. Murdoch is only interested in the good of the American people. This is why he created Fox News so the real truth could be brought out into the open. The suggestion that this was just about money or he was just screwing a lot of credulous rubes hasn’t an iota of truth as Glenn Beck would tell you.

  12. Alex Knapp says:

    ratufa –

    Doh! You’re right. I forgot he became an American citizen so he could own TV stations. My bad.

    Point still stands, though.

  13. sam says:

    @Dodd

    “Arising from a hit piece on ThinkProgress,* the secret foreign money being funneled into US elections talking point was quickly debunked.”

    Just a little point of logic: To say of something that is has not been proven is not to say that it has been debunked. Now if it were proven false, then you can say it’s been debunked.

    I’m not taking a position one way or the other on this issue, as I don’t really know where the Chamber’s money is coming from. I will say, though, that there is a megashitload of anonymous money floating around our elections on both sides and this, I really believe, isn’t a good thing.

  14. Herb says:

    “That leads one to the almost unavoidable conclusion that the real goal of all this sturm und drang about sinister Others and their money isn’t to improve Democrat chances on November 2 but to save face for themselves with their base after November 2.”

    Yeah, just what we need. Dodd telling us the “real goal” of the Democrat’s electoral strategy….

    Assuming the Dems have a “real goal” and a fake one, how would you know what it is? Extensive interviews with Dem leaders? (Nope.) You intercepted the secret memo? (Yeah, right.) You have psychic powers and can divine these things with your I Ching coins? (Seriously doubt it.)

  15. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    If you are charging the Chamber of Commerce with a crime, prove it for face the consquences of falsely making that charge. The only way Goolsby could know about the Koch’s was to illegally access IRS information. We will find out about this sometime after November 2. Wonder how Austin will do in prison?

  16. Brummagem Joe says:

    “The only way Goolsby could know about the Koch’s was to illegally access IRS information.”

    The Dems have been spreading these lies about the Koch’s influencing elections for years. Back in the fifties and sixties they were claiming they were behind the John Birch society. Totally debunked. Ok before anyone mentions those hearings they may have given a few hundred bucks but so what. Everyone knows the Birch society was right about General Marshall and Eisenhower being soviet agents. There’s photographic evidence of Marshall meeting Stalin at Yalta. They shook hands for godsake, what more do you want.

  17. Brummagem Joe says:

    Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:
    Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 18:45
    “We will find out about this sometime after November 2. Wonder how Austin will do in prison?”

    Thank god we have patriots like you Zell that’s all I can say.

  18. Dodd, reading through this comment thread is why I don’t even bother any more.

  19. Steve Plunk says:

    ratafu, You are correct in that elitism infects all political parties. In this case it is the Democrats showing it. I’ve pointed it out in the past but thank you for reminding me.

    Brummagem, I would much rather be on the side of billionaires than the likes of Barney Frank (oops he likes billionaires too, at least their jets and mansions) or the entire Democratic Party (mmmm, did they give back that Soros money?). The fact is what’s good for American business is good for America. We gave up on that idea long ago and now prefer to demonize those who invent, produce, and employ. If those businessmen are billionaires what am I to care?

  20. Herb says:

    “The fact is what’s good for American business is good for America.”

    Nice little homily, but objectively untrue and I shouldn’t have to explain why.

  21. Herb says:

    PS. Love the Soros comment, too. Right wing partisans have no problems with rich guys giving money to politicians….unless that rich guy is named George Soros. You know, standing on principle…..

  22. An Interested Party says:

    “If you are charging the Chamber of Commerce with a crime, prove it for face the consquences of falsely making that charge.”

    So when will you be facing those same consequences for all the unproven slime you’ve thrown at Democrats in general and the president in particular? Will you be using your unemployment checks to pay for your lawyer? Depending on the Legal Aid Society, perhaps?

  23. wr says:

    “What’s good for American business is good for America…”

    Please, rush out and tell that to the people of Louisiana, who discovered how good the unfettered business of oil drilling is. Or the millions of people left jobless when equity firms bought out successful companies, drained away their assets, and threw away the husks. Or a homeowner whose house was just foreclosed by a bank that doesn’t own it. Or the coal miners of West Virginia, who keep learning how good for them it is that their employers manage to skate free of all safety regulation or punishment for violations of same. Tell that to the sufferers of mesothelioma, whose bosses in the asbestos industry couldn’t be bothered to protect them. Tell it to the former residents of Love Canal. Tell it to the citizens of Los Angeles who lost their mass transit system because GM wanted to sell more cars.

    There are an awful lot of decisions that are good for American business that are terrible for everyone else. That’s why we have a government that’s supposed to regulate business. To make sure that their profit doesn’t come at our expense.

    Of course, now you’ll say I hate capitalism because I’m muslim or something.

  24. Grewgills says:

    The Chamber self-reports plans to spend $75 million and the foreign dues it collects are about 1/1000th of that amount.

    Are you implying here that the Chamber of Commerce collects no more than $75,000 in overseas contributions?

  25. sam says:

    Plunk:

    Would you agree that this is a fair characterization of Tea Party sentiment at the moment?

    What is motivating Tea Partiers and other conservatives these days is a backlash against elite education, academic achievement, or the rise of the meritocracy as personified by the Obamas.

  26. Brummagem Joe says:

    Steve Plunk says:
    Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 19:24

    “We gave up on that idea long ago and now prefer to demonize those who invent, produce, and employ. If those businessmen are billionaires what am I to care?”

    Mr Plunk then you’d be demonizing me because I spent most of my life in business and ended up running a medium sized company. So I’m not remotely anti business but I just don’t think it’s a good idea to have people like the Kochs (who are basically just aiming to protect certain economic privileges they enjoy) influencing the outcomes of elections with their money. Essentially buying congressmen. I feel the same way about the SEIU. You’re really going to have to get beyond these childish bumper sticker views of the world.

  27. Steve Plunk says:

    Sam, I don’t agree with that assessment and wonder who said it.

    Brummagem, I wouldn’t demonize you as a businessman but our president would. I’m not here to argue both sides of the issues. The Left lays out their argument and I counter. There is indeed some big donors and corporations going over the line but you can’t generalize and blame all business based upon those examples.

    It may sound like a bumper sticker slogan but take a moment to think about it. Business is the source of what we have. From the farmer to the factory to the shop on Main street business provides jobs, tax revenue, and goods that make our country what it is. I’ll stand by that supposed childish view any day.

  28. Brummagem Joe says:

    Steve Plunk says:
    Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:10

    “There is indeed some big donors and corporations going over the line but you can’t generalize and blame all business based upon those examples.”

    Er, I wasn’t generalizing. Although you don’t seem to be able to tell the difference. As it happens there’s quite a bit uneasiness in the business community about the activities of people like the Chamber which is why some highly visible members have either left completely or suspended their memberships. And then you top it off with another piece monumental bumper stickerism which ignores what I’ve just told you about my background. Jeez.

    “It may sound like a bumper sticker slogan but take a moment to think about it. Business is the source of what we have.”

    ooooohhhhhhh i didn’t know that.

  29. Dodd says:

    Are you implying here that the Chamber of Commerce collects no more than $75,000 in overseas contributions?

    According to the news reports, USCoC overseas membership dues are $100,000, which is 0.001333333333% of $75 million.

  30. Brummagem Joe says:

    Dodd says:
    Friday, October 15, 2010 at 15:23

    “According to the news reports, USCoC overseas membership dues are”

    Foreign corporations operating in the US are only contributing 100k in membership dues to the chamber? Are you kidding?