Democrats' 'Foreign Money' Charge Loses Credibility

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Since last week, Democrats, including President Obama, Vice President Biden and the Democratic National Committee, have been accusing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of using foreign money to finance TV ads. The essential charge holds that a Republican-friendly business lobby is using foreign money to try and steal the election. This talking point has manifested itself in scary campaign ads by and the DNC warning that foreign money is "not just a threat to Democrats" but a "threat to our democracy" as a shadowy figure steals a woman's purse in a parking garage.

Unfortunately for Democrats, the foreign money allegation has lost much of its credibility under the scrutiny of the press. Here's how commentators from the left, right and center are dissecting the Democrats latest election strategy:

  • This Says More About Washington Than Anything Else, writes Eric Lichtblau at The New York Times: "[T]here is little evidence that what the chamber does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents. In fact, the controversy over the Chamber of Commerce financing may say more about the Washington spin cycle — where an Internet blog posting can be quickly picked up by like-minded groups and become political fodder for the president himself — than it does about the vagaries of campaign finance."
  • Democrats Are Peddling an Unproven Claim, writes Brooks Jackson at the non-partisan site
Democrats, from President Barack Obama on down, are trying to turn an evidence-free allegation into a major campaign theme, claiming that foreign corporations are "stealing our democracy" with secret, illegal contributions funneled through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It’s a claim with little basis in fact.

It’s certainly true that millions are being spent without public disclosure, and that much of the money is coming from corporations taking advantage of a Supreme Court ruling easing restrictions on political spending. But using foreign funds to finance political ads is still a legal violation. Accusing anybody of violating the law is a serious matter requiring serious evidence to back it up. So far Democrats have produced none.
  • Let's Talk About Union Spending, writes The Washington Examiner editorial board:
The president and speaker can rail all they want about the "corporate takeover of our elections," but the reality is that 11 of the top 20 biggest political contributors are labor unions. In August, the nation's two biggest unions, the AFL-CIO and SEIU, announced that they would coordinate spending of at least $88 million to elect Democrats. (Imagine the outcry if Goldman Sachs and Bank of America coordinated their campaign spending!). Last week, the National Education Association said it would spend $15 million to help Democrats, and the public sector union AFSCME spent $1.4 million buying ads to help just two congressional Democrats. These are only a few examples of union spending. The Daily Caller's Jon Ward reports that all together, unions and left-wing groups have pledged to spend "more than $250 million now."
  • Who Thought This Talking Point Was a Good Idea? wonders Dan Amira at New York magazine:

An even bigger mystery than where the Chamber gets its money, though, may be why Democrats thought this was such a winning issue to begin with. Maybe there are some Democratic voters out there who were only going to head to the polls this year if they felt sufficiently threatened by foreign money .... but probably not. And the strategy seems especially ill-suited to attract independents or other swing voters who are way, way, waaaaay more concerned about jobs and the economy. When your message three weeks out from the election revolves around campaign-finance disclosure law, it may be to time to refocus your attention on what people actually care about.

  • This Is the Wrong Strategy for Dems, concedes Nick Baumann at Mother Jones:
If Democrats really want to criticize the Chamber of Commerce, they should stop harping on accounting and focus on the larger issue: the vast sums of money that domestic corporations are spending, without any disclosure or accountability. It's easy to pick on scary foreigners. But if Democrats don't want to get buried under a tidal wave of corporate cash, they're going to have to toughen up and focus their criticisms on the US-based companies that are trying to take them out. If Dems don't have the stomach for that, they had better get used to the new landscape.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.