Middle Eastern governments gave to Chamber’s election fund: report
At least 83 foreign firms, including some that are owned by Middle Eastern governments, have given money to the fund the US Chamber of Commerce uses to pay for election ads, says a report at ThinkProgress.
“In addition to multinational members of the Chamber headquartered abroad (like BP, Shell Oil, and Siemens), a new ThinkProgress investigation has identified at least 83 other foreign companies that actively donate to the Chamber’s 501(c)(6),” Lee Fang reported.
Among the companies listed by ThinkProgress are a number of high-profile multinationals, including Paris-based insurer AXA, the Swiss bank Credit Suisse, London-based bank HSBC, and pharmaceutical firms Novartis (Switzerland) and Sanofi-Aventis (France).
The list also includes nine companies located in the Middle Eastern kingdom of Bahrain, including Gulf Petrochemical Industries, which is owned partly by the Bahrain, Saudi and Kuwaiti governments. Another contributor is Gulf Air, which is the national air carrier of Bahrain and is owned by the government of Bahrain.
All the contributions ranged from $5,000 to $20,000. ThinkProgress calculates that the 83 companies, in total, contributed $885,000 to the Chamber general fund, which pays for political ads.
ThinkProgress broke the news of the Chamber’s use of foreign funds last week, in a story that has prompted the Chamber to fight back aggressively, arguing that it doesn’t use foreign money to fund its political activities. On Wednesday, ThinkProgress pushed back:
Instead of providing any documentation or proof to demonstrate foreign money is not being used for electioneering purposes, the Chamber launched an aggressive media strategy to first, attack ThinkProgress with petty name-calling and second, to confuse the media by highlighting the Chamber’s relatively minor AmCham fundraising, which the Chamber says (also without documentation) totals “approximately $100,000” from all 115 international AmCham chapters. The Chamber and the media largely ignored ThinkProgress’ revelation about the Chamber’s direct foreign fundraising to its 501(c)(6) used for attack ads.
Yesterday, the Chamber’s chief lobbyist Bruce Josten, who has been spoon-feeding much of the media distortions about our report, went on Fox News (whose parent company donated $1 million to the Chamber recently for its ad campaign) to again try to dilute the issue by dissembling about the Chamber’s fundraising and membership. “We have probably 60 or so foreign multi-national companies in our membership that we have had for decades, many of which have been in the United States for half a century or a century,” said Josten.
The Chamber is being deceptive. In addition to multinational members of the Chamber headquartered abroad (like BP, Shell Oil, and Siemens), a new ThinkProgress investigation has identified at least 83 other foreign companies that actively donate to the Chamber’s 501(c)(6).
The Chamber’s apparent use of foreign cash to fund elections comes as political observers grow increasingly anxious over the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, which overturned numerous campaign finance laws and has led to unprecedented spending by private groups and corporations in the current campaign season.
On Wednesday, Politico reported that “never in modern political history has there been so much secret money gushing into an American election.”
By Election Day, independent groups will have aired more than $200 million worth of campaign ads using cash that can’t be traced back to its original source, predicts Fred Wertheimer, president of the nonprofit group Democracy 21.
“And this is just the beginning,” Wertheimer said. “Unless we get some changes here to mitigate this problem, I would expect we will see $500 million or more in 2012.”
For those who have been working to shape equitable campaign finance laws in America, “this year feels more like a repudiation of their life’s work,” Politico reports.