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About the Foreign Cash in the Chamber's Campaign Stash

Karl Frisch

The Democratic Party is spending nearly 100 million dollars raised in part from foreign contributions to help elect more immigration reform minded men and women to Congress.

If you happen to be a conservative of the Grand Old tea Party variety, how does such startling "amnesty" related news make you feel?

Suspicious? Fearful? Angry? Perhaps even more xenophobic than usual?

Each of those emotional responses would be expected from tea partiers had the Democratic Party actually taken this foreign money -- it has not.

The "U.S." Chamber of Commerce however, is a different story entirely.

According to an investigative report by the Center for American Progress' Think Progress blog, the Chamber has pledged to spend $75 million to defeat Democratic gubernatorial, house and senate candidates in the November mid-term elections -- a dollar figure that towers over the campaign spending of other outfits.  The exposé found that this money will come from the Chamber's general account "which solicits" funds from foreign corporations and governments.

As the report notes, gulf coast killing BP and other foreign corporations are active Chamber boosters but that support pales in comparison to the massive money the Chamber raises from independent and government run corporations in foreign locales like "China, India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Russia and many other places" around the world.

Imagine for a moment if a group like the right-wing reviled though now defunct community group ACORN had been caught receiving money from Middle Eastern corporations in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.  Fox News would run the story day and night while tea party heads the nation over exploded.

Heck, if Fox News actually covered this story like it has others, it would not even be calling these businesses "foreign corporations," instead they would be called "terror companies" and we would be seeing segments asking why the Chamber has an office just 3.5 miles from ground zero. How insensitive.

Of course, News Corp. -- Fox News' parent company -- gave the "U.S." Chamber of Commerce a $1 million donation recently, so refrain from holding your breath because they are not likely to obsess over the group's foreign funding.

Revelations about the Chamber's shadowy foreign stash of cash should not be a surprise to those following the organization's recent escapades.  Earlier this year it was discovered that major health insurance companies and their professional lobbying organization -- America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) -- were secretly funding $10-20 million worth of the Chamber's misleading ads against health care reform.

So, why would foreign entities be interested in defeating Democratic candidates this fall? I'm sure that Democratic efforts to stop sending American jobs overseas to other countries are just the tip of the issues iceberg.

The Chamber has responded saying that no foreign "money is used for political activities." This categorical denial is far from trustworthy without the confirmation of an independent third-party source and the Chamber isn't likely to open its books for public inspection any time soon.

Such a denial does not even pass the smell test.

Think about it. If the "U.S." Chamber of Commerce has an annual budget of $150 million and plans on spending $75 million from its "general account" on politics, then every foreign dollar raised pads its bottom line making it easier to spend money on politics without jeopardizing the funding of other Chamber initiatives.

In recent years, several major American companies -- AppleNikePG&EPNM, and Exelon for example  -- have parted ways with the Chamber over the organization's denial of the reality of global climate change.

Perhaps it is time for other American corporate Chamber backers to show their patriotism and ask if they like the idea of our nation's political candidates being influenced directly by what amounts to foreign interests.

At the very least, shouldn't we expect our own government to be made in America?

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Karl Frisch is a progressive political communications consultant based in Washington, DC. He can be reached at

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