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FEC U.S. Chamber of Commerce Election Spending Investigation

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Yesterday, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) called on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to investigate reports that foreign corporations may be funding efforts by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to influence elections in this country. He pressed the commission to report its findings and to take any measures necessary to prohibit foreign influence of American elections.


"I am profoundly concerned by recent reports that foreign corporations are indirectly spending significant sums to influence American elections through third-party groups, including 501( c )(6) trade organizations," Sen. Franken wrote. "I am writing to ask that you investigate these claims, enforce existing laws and regulations prohibiting foreign spending in American elections, and strengthen those very laws through new regulations and policy guidance."


In January, Sen. Franken authored the American Elections Act, a bill that would prohibit election expenditures by companies controlled by a foreign corporation or individual. That provision was included as part of the DISCLOSE Act, which would require more complete disclosure of political spending by corporations and other groups.

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Speaking from one good corporate citizen to another, wouldn't you rather have Republicans who will pull money from literally any source including foreign corporations, no doubt they would hit up the Taliban if need be, to simply win elections, than Democrats who pander to moneyed sources by serving corporations with watered-down legislation?


At least Republicans are blatantly dishonest to my face. Whatever it takes. Just win, baby!

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The US Chamber of Commerce president, Tom Donahue, on the record in support of outsourcing jobs during the Bush administration years.



Aired February 10, 2004 - 18:00 ET


My guest tonight says the outsourcing of some U.S. jobs overseas can be good for our economy, and he says so can giving some illegal aliens legal status. Those aren't exactly the positions that we have been exploring or the positions that we've been finding supportable.


Tom Donohue, however, is president and CEO of the largest business organization in the country, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


Hey, we're delighted to have you with us.




DOBBS: Let's start with outsourcing. The president of the United States, the White House, this administration says outsourcing is good for America. How in the world can he win reelection telling hardworking men and women that their jobs, which people now know are at risk -- it's just fine, it's for the good of the economy, it's good for the market?


DONOHUE: Well, first of all, I think the report today, while it might have sound economic principles, was a pretty stupid delivery of a message in a political year.


DOBBS: See, we're already agreeing right off the bat.


DONOHUE: Yes, but there are legitimate values in outsourcing -- not only jobs, but work -- to gain technical experience and benefit we don't have here, to lower the price of products, which means more and more of them are brought into the United States, used, for example, I.T., much broader use than it was 10 years ago, create more and more jobs.


But the bottom line is that we outsource very few jobs in relation to the size of our economy. We employ -- American companies employ 140 million Americans. They provide health care for 160 million Americans. They provide training in terms of 40 billion a year. The outsourcing deal over three or four or five years and the two or three sets of numbers are only going to be, you know, maybe two, maybe three million jobs, maybe four.


DOBBS: My God, Tom. we've lost 2.8 million manufacturing jobs in the last three years.


DONOHUE: And you're going to lose more, but the...


DOBBS: And we're going to lose more.


DONOHUE: But why?


DOBBS: But...


DONOHUE: And where did they go?


DOBBS: Before we get to the why, let me finish just the stipulation here. We've lost those jobs. You can argue that's not many in a labor force of 150 million people. But, by God, for those 2.8 million people, that's a lot of jobs.

And we've got a government saying we're going to train you. We've got a government arguing over whether or not we'll extend jobless benefits. We've got nearly 15 million people unemployed. We've got people saying...

DONOHUE: Well...


DOBBS: Let me finish. And then you can correct the record, as you see it.

And then we've got a government saying it's good for you to see your job outsourced.

The numbers at -- you can use Forrester. You can use the Berkeley study. It's either three million or -- it's 14 million over the next five to seven years. This doesn't come up to a happy result...


DONOHUE: The economy continues...


DOBBS: ... for real people.


DONOHUE: Of course. The economy continues to create a great number of jobs. And, as you know, we had a talk about how you measure it, but we are creating more jobs, we will don't create more jobs, and we will be in a position where we're not going to have enough people in a very short period of time because of our demographics to fill the jobs we have.


DOBBS: Now you're moving to the issue of illegal immigration.


DONOHUE: No, I'm not.


DOBBS: You're not?


DONOHUE: I'm moving to the issue of how many people live here, how many people work here, how many people are going to retire, and how many people are going to be available to work.


DOBBS: Right.


DONOHUE: Now there happen to be close to 10 million illegal workers in the United States.


DOBBS: So you were migrating to this issue.


DONOHUE: No, I'm talking about -- whether it's people that are here legally or illegally, we have got a demographic circumstance.


We're going to have a massive number of people retire in the next few years, and the 25- to 40-year-old people -- remember, that's when people sort of invented the pill and everything, and we don't have those people here to work.

There's a tremendous hole in the wall. We've got to think as small companies and big economies where are we going to get the people that are going to work in the United States.


DOBBS: How about -- how about legal immigration as an adjunct to natural childbirth?


DONOHUE: Well, I think legal immigration is a great idea, and both Sweeney and I -- he runs the AFL-CIO -- testified the day before 9/11 about a program that would bring us in that direction. After 9/11, of course, we tied down the borders. The president took a risky position. He took a big risk in coming out and saying we ought to make some changes.


DOBBS: A guest worker program for three years that can be extended.


DONOHUE: To six.


DOBBS: But the fact of the matter is it's a riskier proposition right now for us to be talking about homeland security and not even being able to secure our borders. It's a riskier proposition to have John Sweeney talking about organizing illegal aliens and Tom Donohue and his members talking about exploiting labor and...


DONOHUE: Excuse me. Those are your terms.


DOBBS: I'm talking.




DOBBS: And you get the next shot.


DONOHUE: That's exactly right.


DOBBS: Fair deal.


Instead of talking about what is in the best interest of this country, absolutely, that is in terms of border security, humane treatment of illegal aliens and legal aliens, the insistence that there be a legal approach to immigration in this country rather than de facto, and an insistence that we have skills in the part of those immigrants who we do bring into this country rather than an ad hoc multicultural sort of acceptance of whatever will be on the part of another government.


DONOHUE: For many administrations of both parties in this country, we have denied the demographic reality we face and the fact that there are millions of illegal workers in the United States. The great preponderance of those are people that do nonskilled jobs.

The skilled people that come in under the H1B visas, we're able to get them -- have been able to get them to come in and do high-tech jobs. Because of what we're doing in homeland security, they dropped that number. And you only have two choices: Either bring them here to work or you send it where the work can be done because we don't have sufficient technical people.


We've got to train people. Companies spent $40 billion this year training people.


DOBBS: Even though Tom and I disagree on a number of these issues, I respect Tom greatly.


And because I know that your heart's in the right place and you want to move toward better education for American workers and a more rational immigration policy as well and -- and -- well, you and I are just going to have to agree to disagree on the exporting of American jobs right now.


I'd just like to share with our viewers and you a thought that I thought might be appropriate on this issue for a lot of folks to look at. "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." Albert Einstein.


DONOHUE: I absolutely agree with that.


DOBBS: I wanted to end where we both agree.


DONOHUE: But remember what the other great mind said, Herman Kahn, that prevailing thought and conventional wisdom is almost always wrong.


DOBBS: That's why I'm totally against it.


Thanks very much, Tom Donohue, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


Coming up next, speculators on Wall Street flock to the architects of outsourcing. Christine Romans will have that story for us next. Please stay with us.





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I think we need a law that requires the CEO to be located where the majority of their workers are located, like India, where there were a record number of bombings last month...or better yet, Pakistan. It's time to off-shore CEO jobs, for lower cost and better performance. Based on this and the past few year's results, American companies could do very well by off-shoring CEO jobs to India and China.

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AmCham-China on record against the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act


AmCham-China Statement Regarding HR 2378


The American Chamber of Commerce in the People’s Republic of China (AmCham-China) opposes the Chinese currency legislation passed by the US House of Representatives. If enacted into law, the chamber does not believe the bill will be effective in achieving its objectives and would fail to create significant US job growth.


In addition, we believe the legislation puts at risk thousands of existing export-related US jobs. “Blaming China won’t help the US economy but this legislation may cost American jobs,” said AmCham-China Chairman John D. Watkins, Jr. “We call on the US Senate to thoroughly review the proposed legislation and we hope it does not move forward in the legislative process.”

AmCham-China stands firmly with eight former Secretaries of Commerce and US Trade Representatives, along with a long list of leading US trade associations and business groups in opposing HR 2378. While AmCham-China’s membership of US companies on the ground doing business in China support a move to a market-oriented Chinese currency, we believe there are better ways for US lawmakers to create well-paying American jobs than through this legislation. We believe that in order to enhance economic growth US lawmakers should focus on coming up with a response to China’s web of industrial policies, weak intellectual property protection and tightening market access.



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Here is some contact information. Hopefully it will help you.




John D. Watkins Jr., GE (China)


Vice Chairs


Ted Dean, Individual

Mark Duval, Motorola

David Wang, Boeing (China)




Michael Crain, MDC Strategies

Matthew J. Estes, Babycare

Barry Friedman, Wal-Mart China

Jim Gradoville, Individual

Roberta Lipson, Chindex International

Ningke Peng, Dow Chemical

Malone Ma, MetLife

Lisa Robins, J.P. Morgan

Lester Ross, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP

Sharon Ruwart, Mars




Christian Murck, AmCham-China




Gus Kang, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu


General Counsel


Nathan G. Bush, O'Melveny & Myers LLP


The Office Park, Tower AB, 6th Floor

No. 10 Jintongxi Road

Chaoyang District

Beijing, 100020 PRC


Tel: (8610) 8519-0800

Fax: (8610) 8519-0899


E-mail: amcham@amchamchina.org Website: http://www.amchamchina.org

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China’s contravention of established trade laws has imposed significant hardship on American manufacturers and workers and continues to imperil our economic recovery. Economist Paul Krugman has written that China’s “is the most distortionary exchange rate policy any major nation has ever followed.” Fred Bergsten of the Peterson Institute for International Economics believes that resolution of this issue could create as many as 1 million American jobs. A report by the Economic Policy Institute concluded that between 2001 and 2008, 2.4 million jobs were lost and thousands of workers were displaced in every U.S. congressional district as a result of China’s currency manipulation and unfair trade policies.

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You liberals are desperate. But, November will change that.




Chamber of Commerce director of media relations J.P. Fielder said that money goes to the group's general fund and then to the international division, keeping it away from any political activities.


"No foreign money is used to fund our political activities," the Chamber said in a statement, citing the rules established by Congress more than a century ago.


"We are seeing an attempt to demonize specific groups and distract Americans from a failed economic agenda," said the Chamber's vice president for government affairs Bruce Josten of the charges.


"They have not one shred of evidence to back up that baseless lie," said Republican strategist Karl Rove of the claims.

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The US Chamber of Commerce has promised to spend upwards of $75 million in this year’s elections. The group has waged an aggressive war this year against candidates who stand up to corporate special interests. They used money directly from insurance companies to funnel tens of million of dollars into ads opposing historic health care reform. They opposed efforts to hold BP fully accountable for the Gulf oil spill, opposed efforts to give women equal pay, and did their best to derail Wall Street reform. The Chamber has come under fire for using money from foreign companies in their $75-million effort to influence the midterm elections.


Most egregiously, the Chamber is attacking candidates who voted for the same bills the Chamber itself supported--for example, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Total Asset Relief Program.

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Guest David John Toth

One of the most corrupting influences in the electoral process is funding from special interest groups, corporations, unions, and other groups. We need to move to public funding of all political campaigns, but until then, it is important that candidates disclose their funding sources so that voters can assess the candidate's ties to these groups. It is also important that voters demand ethical campaigns so that the focus remains on the issues and not on false claims, false promises, empty rhetoric, and political propaganda.

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Guest Rick Kahl

The issue isn't where the money came from. The issue is the agenda that the COC, their foreign investors, and the Republican Party are following, and that is one that is infinitely more concerned with the profits of multinational corporations than with creating jobs for the millions of unemployed Americans in the USA.

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American Outsource companies are not American. They get tax incentives to outsource and increase our debt.




Peruvian President Alan Garcia briefed U.S. Chamber members on December 14 at the Hay-Adams Hotel, hours before joining President Bush to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries at a White House ceremony. The ceremony capped off two years of work by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to help gain congressional approval of the agreement.


Garcia urged business leaders to take advantage of the FTA and invest in Peru. "Come and open your factories in my country so we can sell your own products back to the U.S.," Garcia told business leaders. Chamber Senior Vice President of International Affairs Dan Christman called on Congress to approve other pending agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. "Peru is just the first act in a much, much longer running play. Congress should support these other agreements. The logic is inescapable, even for Washington."

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Guest American4Progress

Since ThinkProgress.org reported on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's foreign sources of funding last week, the media appears to have been confused about the report due to the spin coming from the right. Here are the facts that our report established: 1) The Chamber gladly accepts money from foreign companies, and the Chamber acknowledges that fact. 2) Those funds go into a general 501©(6) account, and the Chamber acknowledges that fact. 3) The Chamber refuses to disclose its system for ensuring foreign money is not influencing our elections, and the Chamber claims, "We are not obligated to discuss our internal procedures." While the Chamber claims that it does not use foreign funds to finance its election ads -- which is illegal -- thus far, the corporate lobby has refused to offer any proof to alleviate the concerns raised by the ThinkProgress report. Lawmakers and outside groups have called for investigations into whether the Chamber is using foreign money to fund campaign ads. Even President Obama weighed in last week. "Groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections. And they won't tell you where the money for the ads come from," the President said. "This is a threat to our democracy."



WHAT WE KNOW: The Chamber receives funding from three foreign sources: 1) Foreign-based corporations, 2) Business Councils that operate out of the Chamber's Washington, DC headquarters to solicit foreign donations, and 3) independently-run AmChams that are based overseas. Most of the Chamber's foreign sources of funding come from large multi-national corporations which are headquartered abroad, like BP and Siemens. Business Councils in Bahrain and India have raised at least $300,000 in direct contributions to the Chamber's 501©(6) account. And "AmChams" are a red herring, as we explain in the next paragraph. There is no oversight of the Chamber's money flow -- something the Chamber fought successfully to prevent. "Money, however, is fungible," a Times editorial explained last week, "and it is impossible for an outsider to know whether the group is following its rules." The Chamber claims that it has a "system" in place to prevent foreign funds from being used for its political attack ads, but it refuses to disclose what exactly that system is or how it works. "To me, there is absolutely no doubt that this is a back-door way to get around what are long-standing and legitimate restrictions," Norm Ornstein, resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute said when asked about the Chamber's dubious funding, adding that regulations "are being flouted and abused even as we speak."



IT'S NOT ABOUT 'AMCHAMS':The Chamber has offered only a sliver of disclosure on the matter, saying that its foreign chapters, called "AmChams," pay "nominal dues" to the Chamber -- approximately $100,000 total across all 115 AmChams, thus suggesting that any foreign money coming to the Chamber's 501©(6) account is minuscule. This whitewash campaign -- started by the Chamber, picked up by the right wing, and filtered through to the mainstream media -- is beginning to cloud the primary issue with the Chamber's foreign funding: namely, that undisclosed monies from foreign entities may be funding its political attack ads. Right wingers such as Karl Rove and the Media Research Center have picked up and amplified the Chamber's narrative, which migrated to the Associated Press, the Washington Post and the New York Times. All of them published stories largely dismissing the main concerns about the Chamber's foreign sources of funding, choosing to focus instead on the "AmChams." The Times even disregarded the thrust of the ThinkProgress report as part of the "Washington spin cycle." The Times and Post stories have since provided cover for the rest of the Beltway media and right-wing talking heads. "The New York Times looked into the Chamber specifically and said the Chamber really isn't putting foreign money into the campaign," CBS Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer said on Sunday. That it does charge its foreign affiliates dues that bring in less than a hundred thousand dollars a year," he said. Using a neologism invented by Sarah Palin, former RNC chair Ed Gillespie said later in the program that the Times and Post "both completely 'refudiated' this charge of foreign money being funneled through the Chamber of Commerce into American campaigns."


HOW TO PUT IT TO REST: It's vitally important the public is informed about who are special interests paying for the TV advertisements that are trying to affect the outcome of U.S. elections. MSNBC's Chris Matthews explained the danger yesterday. Big corporations "engage in outsourcing. They send jobs overseas. They outsource their supply lines overseas. They do everything they can to screw the working person and make more money," he said, adding, "Where do they get their money? The U.S. Chamber of Commerce gets money from those very sources and uses it to elect people in Congress who will support that enterprise of shifting jobs overseas, cost cutting, eliminating the American workforce." The Chamber is currently advocating for tax loopholes that send American jobs overseas and its CEO Tom Donahue has said that outsourcing has been good for Americans. Indeed, just this week, the Chamber is using that money to air an unprecedented $10 million in political ads this week alone. In an interview with ABC News, White House senior adviser David Axelrod succinctly noted the main concern about foreign funding to the Chamber. "What we don't know is where the millions of dollars -- $75 million -- is coming from that they are using to fund these campaigns," Axelrod said, asking, "And the question back to them keeps coming back from us and others is why not simply say? What is it that is so nefarious about the sources of their money that they won't reveal it?" "This isn't a hard thing," Mother Jones's Kevin Drum wrote on Sunday, adding, "Either money from overseas goes into the Chamber's general fund, which is the same fund used to buy attack ads on Democrats, or it doesn't. All the Chamber has to do is demonstrate the latter and this will all go away. So what's the holdup?" However, the Chamber is refusing any transparency. "We are not obligated to discuss our internal accounting procedures," Chamber spokesperson Tita Freeman told the Washington Post last week. David Donnelly, national campaigns director for Public Campaign Action Fund said, "They basically say, 'trust us' when there's mounting evidence they're outsourcing the funding of their political attacks ads? Yeah, right."

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This whitewash campaign -- started by the Chamber, picked up by the right wing, and filtered through to the mainstream media -- is beginning to cloud the primary issue with the Chamber's foreign funding: namely, that undisclosed monies from foreign entities may be funding its political attack ads. Right wingers such as Karl Rove and the Media Research Center have picked up and amplified the Chamber's narrative, which migrated to the Associated Press, the Washington Post and the New York Times. All of them published stories largely dismissing the main concerns about the Chamber's foreign sources of funding, choosing to focus instead on the "AmChams."


I really believe both parties do this. But, two wrongs do not make it right. I wish voters would press both sides to clearly state why the level of outsourcing done today is good for our country. There are too many people without jobs to use the baby boomers are dying, so we don't have enough workers argument.


As many of you know I am for Made in USA all the way. I am hoping that Republican leadership starts believing this as well.

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For Immediate Release

October 12, 2010

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, 10/12/2010


Q There are a lot of us here who have covered the President’s campaign and now his White House, and a lot of times you guys are subject to accusations that are baseless and grounded in no more than, “Well, it could be true; make them prove that it’s not true.” And that seems to be the argument you’re making towards the Chamber of Commerce when it comes to these foreign donations -- it could be true; have them prove that it’s not true. Don’t you think that the President -- there should be a higher bar for when the President levels or suggests or insinuates a charge?


MR. GIBBS: Well, Jake, what I would do is go back and look at what the President has said directly on this. The President --


Q Very careful with his language, absolutely. But the suggestion is it could be true; they should open their books.


MR. GIBBS: Well, Jake, the -- as we covered in this morning’s briefing, or gaggle, that I get asked questions and others around this town get asked questions about people that have donated to the campaigns that you mentioned that you follow because people that give in excess of $200 are required to report who they are and who they work for. Simple disclosure.


We know that -- we know, because the Chamber has said, that they take money from overseas. We do know that they’re spending $75 million to $80 million on ad campaigns -- with anonymous donors. They know the identities, but the American people and the voters in these individual elections do not.


The best way to clear any of this stuff up would simply be to disclose the names, the identities of those donors. That goes for groups on any side of the political spectrum. When you have, in the case of this election -- there are outside groups on the Republican side that are largely supplanting the role of the national party, certainly to the extent to which they are participating as an active entity in this election. And no one knows where that money is coming from.


This is an important election. And those groups owe it to the American people to tell us who they are, to describe based on that identity what their agenda is, why are they so heavily involved in these races.


It seems like a fairly simple thing to do. The President talked about this as early this year as the State of the Union. And we tried desperately to get a law passed that would require those identities to be disclosed.


Q Robert, at the gaggle, you suggested that the reason the President didn’t bring up the Chamber of Commerce issue was he was just giving an abbreviated version of his usual address at fundraisers. But are you suggesting that he’s not backing off this at all? When he holds fundraiser for Coons on Friday and Patrick on Saturday, he goes to Cleveland in Columbus, are you telling us this will be a major part of his address?


MR. GIBBS: Look, it will be -- it will definitely be part of his address, absolutely.


Q He’s not backing off one iota.


MR. GIBBS: There’s no reason to. There’s no reason to back off asking for the disclosure on these --


Q There’s been a lot of criticism, I mean, from fact-checking organizations and from newspaper editorials, and a lot of people saying, this is the kind of --


MR. GIBBS: None of whom have seen --


Q -- unsubstantiated, harsh attacks that he --


MR. GIBBS: None of whom have seen the list of donors that is being protected and whose identities are being protected.


Chip, if there are organizations raising tens of millions of dollars who won’t tell us who their donors are, my guess is they’re not telling us for a reason -- because they have something to hide.


Yet they spend -- they supplant an entire national political party, spend tens of millions of dollars, in the end, in total, probably hundreds of millions of dollars without knowing who they are, what their agenda is or who they represent. That’s not good for our democracy.

Q How do you define Rove-ian trick?


MR. GIBBS: In this case, it was -- it was very much to try to take a similar example far out of what the discussion point is in order to distract you all away from asking for their donor list.


Q And in other cases? I mean, is this something with a broader application? Rove-ian trick, is that sort of --


MR. GIBBS: Likely. (Laughter.)


Q Is that something we’re going to find in Webster’s in a --


MR. GIBBS: Likely, yes, I’m sure --


Q -- Bill Safire’s dictionary?


MR. GIBBS: Yes. (Laughter.) Look, again, I think it’s -- the question was, well, how come this think tank won’t disclose its donors. Well, look, that might be an interesting debate to have, but it’s not the debate that we’re having about the fact that there’s tens of millions of dollars on TV for and against certain candidates.


If -- as I said this morning, if that was a group that was advertising on television, the President has not reserved his criticism for the masking of the identities of these political donors based on who they are advertising for or against. He believes that whether you are supportive of Democratic candidates, Republican candidates, in some cases both, the identities of who funds those campaigns is pertinent to the debate.

Q Does the President approve of the DNC saying -- and believe, as the DNC ad says -- that the Chamber of Commerce is apparently taking money, using money from foreign sources in its political endeavors?


MR. GIBBS: I have not -- I don’t know whether the President -- I have not talked to the President about that ad, so I don’t --


Q You won’t go -- you won’t go that far?


MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I have not talked to the President about that ad. I would point you to what the President has said on this subject, which is to lay out that -- as the Chamber has said, they take money from overseas. We know they’re spending millions of dollars. Who is that money coming from? And where is it coming from?


Q The Chamber’s dues from foreign affiliates account for less than two-tenths of a percent of the $40 million plus -- $40 million to $50 million they’re spending on political endeavors this year.


MR. GIBBS: Have you seen the list of their donors?


Q I have not.


MR. GIBBS: Okay.


Q Is the bigger problem the legal use of money from domestic donors that may have an agenda? I mean, do you seriously think that the possibility of illegal use of foreign funds is as big a threat?


MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the identity -- I think that a small number of people might write tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in checks to fund and bankroll a campaign or a series of campaign ads in order to defeat certain candidates because they have -- whether it’s -- it’s not a political ideology; it’s what business do they have in front of the federal government. What regulation are they trying to impact with -- by getting involved in certain Senate races? What’s their legislative agenda?

Easier to answer if you knew who we were talking about.


Q But that’s not illegal. If they’re foreign it’s illegal. But if they’re domestic it’s not illegal.


MR. GIBBS: I’d say the biggest point in this is disclosure. The biggest point is knowing what’s out there. The biggest point is who’s involved. That’s what the President mentioned, again, at the State of the Union many, many months ago. And we had -- there was a bill to do just this, because the President warned that -- warned pretty clearly what might happen if those identities were shielded from the American people.




Q To follow up on -- actually, to follow up on the bill that you just brought up, Democrats on Capitol Hill mishandle that bill? Did they cut too many deals -- the exception for the NRA, the exception for labor unions -- and so politicized it?


MR. GIBBS: The biggest problem was 99 percent of Republicans voted against that bill.


Q Well, they voted against the bill after the deals were cut. Were too many deals cut?


MR. GIBBS: Look, I think it should be a simple deal, right?


Q And it wasn’t, correct? This bill -- could this bill have been simplified?


MR. GIBBS: It should be who are your donors.


Q But that was not what this bill said, right?


MR. GIBBS: You’re probably following some aspects --


Q I understand, but I mean --


MR. GIBBS: -- more than I am. But --


Q -- but it does sound like you feel like this bill wasn’t simple enough. Could have been simple, straightforward --


MR. GIBBS: Chuck, I think when people filibuster the bill because people don’t want you to know who their donors are, I think it’s pretty simple. There’s -- there was a ruling and a campaign put together in order to gather up tens of and hundreds of millions of dollars to affect an election, with the promise that your identity would never be known. That’s pretty simple. That’s what’s gotten all that money rolling into TV stations.


Q Another housekeeping. One, when’s the last time the President talked to the Chilean President?


Q Robert, if the law doesn’t require political groups to disclose their donors, how can you say that these groups owe it to the American people? I mean, they’re abiding by the law.


MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the spirit of political disclosure is -- and remember, too, that the law was -- the last has just recently been struck down by the Court. The notion of disclosure was struck down by the Court. The notion of political donor anonymity was established, and I think many in Congress believed that -- although not enough -- believed that understanding who those people are is important to the process.


There are -- it is hard to understate, Mark, how much they’re impacting some of these elections. In some of these states, there are four, five, six of these groups up at a time.


Q They’re just commercials.


MR. GIBBS: Well, probably radio ads, TV ads. That’s -- I think most people would admit that’s the way a bunch of people, most people, get the information that they’re going to -- how they determine who’s going to vote -- who they’re going to vote for, excuse me. And I think it’s important -- when you don’t know who those people are, when you don’t know what their agenda is, I think, as the President has said, that is a threat very fundamentally to our democracy. There are people impacting those elections with which you have no identity.


Q Do you think the spirit of political openness ought to embrace the President when he does closed-door fundraisers?


MR. GIBBS: Well, just last night the President brought a print pool into --


Q Yes, but for ones that were closed.


MR. GIBBS: They were, but here’s what you know, Mark. Every person that gives to an entity that the President is raising money for -- the DCCC, the DSCC, the DNC, Obama for America in 2007 and 2008 -- if you give in excess of $200 -- and I think in our case we actually disclosed a lower amount -- but if you give in excess of $200, we know who you are -- not only we -- you, the FEC, it’s posted on the Internet -- who you are, who you work for, where you live. That’s basic disclosure. That’s how --

Q But in the spirit of openness, if he’s addressing big money donors, shouldn’t that be open to coverage?


MR. GIBBS: I will say this -- I will say this, Mark, I think we had one or two that weren’t --


Q There was more than that.


MR. GIBBS: I’m sure you have the exact number.


Q I do. (Laughter.)


MR. GIBBS: I bet it was less than five.


Q It’s closer to 10.


MR. GIBBS: How many have we done?


Q Fifty something.


MR. GIBBS: Okay. I’d put our openness, Mark, against anybody’s. It was a policy that we had during the campaign. It wasn’t something that we waited to institute when we got there. And we’ve taken as many steps as we’ve can to ensure that when the President speaks to these groups, that you know.


Q But why are there different rules for some of these things? Why do you say, well, print for this? What’s the point of keeping TV cameras out?


MR. GIBBS: Because it’s -- it’s not the point of keeping TV cameras out, Chuck. I trust that your friends are -- that are doing pool reports are relaying what the President says quite accurately. But, Chuck, it’s -- no offense, but to take you, your producer, to take one other guy, to take a bunch of people --


Q I mean, that’s why we have a pool. We have a very small group of people. We’re talking --


MR. GIBBS: You’re not a very small group of people, but some people have private homes that we don’t -- we just -- you can’t bring that many people into. But, Chuck, let’s not get diverted from the fact that you know exactly what the President said last night, you know exactly -- you will know exactly who gave, you’ll know the amount they gave, you will know their name and where they work. You will not know any of that on these groups that sound like “Mom and Apple Pie” that are running tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars of ads affecting big parts of Senate races, big parts of House races, big parts of gubernatorial races. Obviously a separate series of laws govern gubernatorial races.

But I’d be happy, Mark, if the groups that have advertised in these races on either side met the transparency standards that we have met and that federal candidates are required to meet, because you’d know the identities of who gave that money.




Q Will you have more closed fundraisers?


MR. GIBBS: Not that -- every one I think we have is -- will be open, as far as I know. And I think all the ones that we announced today -- the DCCC, the DNC events -- I know are open.


Q Delaware?


MR. GIBBS: I believe Delaware is open. I don’t -- I will double-check on that when we get out of here.


Q Robert, could you just spell out why you think it’s a good argument to be pushing this issue of the foreign money and whether it exists or not, is disclosed or not, at a time when we’re this close to the election and people are sort of looking for the closing argument?


MR. GIBBS: Well, I think people care about -- let’s be clear, I think people care very much about who these people are and who these people are that they don’t know. And understand that we don’t know what their agenda is. We don’t know whether they’re trying to elect a group of senators to roll back Wall Street reform. We don’t know -- there’s a whole lot of things we don’t know.


I think -- look, if you look at the Bloomberg poll today, it was one of the most -- it was one of the most likely -- if you look at the percentages of “are you more likely to support or less likely to support somebody who has advertising in that race on their behalf,” it was a pretty persuasive concern for voters.


Q Robert, you guys have complained for quite a while about sort of these unsubstantiated Republican charges about death panels and birth certificates and all that kind of thing. Does it feel kind of good to hear them carping about the accuracy of your statements with regard to the Chamber?


MR. GIBBS: Well, no, but let’s take the example that you -- the example that you had of death panels, okay? That might seem -- might have seemed like a more plausible charge if he didn’t have a piece of legislation in front of you. Remember -- are you going to read the bill, are you going to look at this section, are you going to go through this? You had the piece of legislation.


So let’s just have an analogous political argument, and that is let’s put out the names, put it in the list, put it in a form -- I’m sure it would stack up quite high -- put out the names of the donors and let people make a judgment based on the evidence.


That’s the one thing you could do with health care, right? You could -- you had a piece of legislation that you could -- and why the myth was so thoroughly debunked, it’s because people read the legislation and said, well, that’s not in there. But we don’t have a list of who’s giving secret money to these secret groups.


Q Well, we’ve had like, I don’t know, between this morning and now, we’ve had a dozen questions about this, we’ve eaten a lot of clock. Isn’t that to a certain extent one of the reasons why we’re talking about this, so that we don’t have to talk about other things like the economy or other issues?


MR. GIBBS: No, I think this is very much part of the economy. Understand this, Glenn, I don’t know the identities. I wish I did. I bet when we finally do find out who these people are, you’re going to find out their political agenda is to go back to the rules that we had governing Wall Street before we passed financial reform.


But, Glenn, all you got to do, if you walk right out that door, right up that nifty new set of steps, walk across that nifty park, there’s a big building right over there. Right? It’s a stone’s throw. It’s a bad Sam Youngman golf shot. (Laughter.) I had you right up until that, right?


But what I’m saying -- what I’m telling you -- what I’m saying, Glenn, is it’s a short walk, right? Email the Chamber and tell them you’ll meet them over there in 10 minutes. Have the list. Put the entire argument to rest with the list. Put the entire argument to rest with Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie by providing the list. Why perpetuate the argument? Why distract from all the other things we could be talking about by just simply providing the list? That seems easy. Simply disclose the identities of who funds all these ads. No longer hide behind the shroud of secrecy and anonymity.


Simply tell us who you are. It will probably be pretty easy to figure out what your agenda is. But generally people that are looking for that shroud of secrecy in keeping their names anonymous have something to hide. It would be easy -- just walk right over there.


Q Including environmental groups and all the others that also get money anonymously? All of them should disclose all of their donors?


MR. GIBBS: If you’re running TV ads in this election --


Q That’s the White House position?


MR. GIBBS: It has been since the President stood in front of Congress in the State of the Union.


Q Even groups that support this White House?


MR. GIBBS: Even groups that support this White House.


Q Are you calling on them now to do that?


MR. GIBBS: Absolutely, absolutely.




Q But, Robert, listening to you in this briefing, again, they have the cover of the law behind them.


MR. GIBBS: You got to get a shorter guy sitting in front of you.


Q Sorry. (Laughter.)


Q Okay, they have the cover of the law behind them. But just listening, it’s sounding like -- and you tell me if I’m wrong -- they have deeper pockets than we do, and we’re upset, and we want them to disclose even though they have the cover behind it -- let me -- you’re upset because they’re winning in the ad game.


MR. GIBBS: I am -- they have the ability to influence elections. They are supplanting the entire effort of a national party to the tune of $150 million, $160 million, $180 million in a political campaign. And you don’t have the slightest idea who they are.


You don’t have -- you don’t know who they represent. You don’t know what their political agenda is. You don’t know what they’re looking for in their next United States senator. You don’t know if we’re looking for somebody to walk down there the first day and sign on to repealing the laws that we have instituted to change the way Wall Street works.


But they’re going to impact this election. If it weren’t for the discussion we’re having now, this would likely be the biggest story after the election -- $200 million, $150 million -- some huge amount of money that is playing out in races all over the country, and nobody knows who they are. I think that’s a threat to the democracy that we have this country. I think that is what is fundamental about who we are and what’s at stake in this election.

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Guest Snowball

There was a time and place when a Chamber of Commerce Party controlled a government. It was during the reign of Benito Mussolini when he replaced the Italian parliament with what was at the time, essentially the Italian Chamber of Commerce. While today's corporatists may not be explicitly chauvinist or belligerent nationalists, the idea that corporate interests should control government is still by definition, Fascism.

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