Saturday, October 09, 2010

Is foreign money buying a Republican victory in Wisconsin's Senate race?

Hi everyone,

Yep, looks like it is.

Saturday's column.

Election exchange
Chamber ‘system’ banks on foreigners to bankroll Johnson

Back in 2002, Sens. Russ Feingold and John McCain worked together to produce the kind of campaign finance reform that made it difficult for foreign governments or corporations to buy American elections.

Today, foreign money is pouring into this year’s election. Some of it is being spent to help the plastics millionaire from Oshkosh run against Feingold – the guy who got in their way. As usual, there’s a tragic irony in this: that foreign money is being funneled into the United States, and now into Wisconsin, by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The McCain-Feingold bill made it illegal for any foreign national to — and watch this — “directly or indirectly” spend any money for the purposes of creating an “electioneering communication.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce ads aimed at unseating Feingold are pretty much the definition of an “electioneering communication.” Based on current law, these commercials might well be illegal.

But it gets even worse. Not only is it illegal for foreign nationals to spend money on buying elections, or make contributions to fund election-time commercials, it’s also illegal for anyone to ask for such funds from foreign nationals – precisely what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce seems to have done in its solicitation of funding from foreign corporations and governments. Now, in fairness, the Chamber has claimed it has “a system in place” to make sure that the money they take in from overseas is kept separate from the money they’re spending on domestic election campaigns, like the one against Feingold, but the money’s coming out of the same general account.

This sounds a lot like the “system” my little brother used to use to keep the carrots in his serving of peas-and-carrots from touching the peas in his serving of peas-and-carrot: a bit of mashed potato and lots of imagination.

The beauty of this for the Chamber is that, as a 501(c)(6) trade association, they can spend as much money as they want and never reveal the donors. Think of the possibilities for foreign corporations, or governments, that want to influence the outcome of an American election. It’s a dream come true. As of Sept. 15, they’d already bankrolled 8,000 commercials across the United States on behalf of Republican candidates for the Senate. Their list of happy GOP recipients now includes the Republican candidate in Wisconsin. Feingold isn’t just running against a plastics millionaire from Oshkosh – now he’s running against commercial interests from India and Bahrain.

It isn’t surprising that these
interests would target the senator who Washingtonian Magazine listed as the number one enemy of lobbyists in Washington. And it isn’t surprising that Feingold’s millionaire opponent got the endorsement of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom Washingtonian Magazine ranked as the No. 1 friend of lobbyists in Washington. Johnson, in addition to spending his own wealth on the race, has enjoyed $1.3 million worth of “electioneering communications” pour in from outside groups, but there’s more. He’ll also be able to look forward to some of the $464,000 that the National Republican Senatorial committee has already set aside for him. It’s good to be rich and have rich friends. You can do the math from there.

One final, completely practical, observation: commercial and corporate powerhouses in China, India, and Brazil have no interest in keeping jobs in Wisconsin, so why would their candidate? Why would a foreign corporation whose profit motive dictates taking jobs out of America, push for Ron Johnson? Because they expect him to vote in ways that will support their profits. Of course. That’s just good business.

Also, it was nice to see that even millions of foreign dollars can't make you look smart in a debate.



sofa said...

McCain-Feingold only constrained the honest, and set up easy work arounds.

McCain-Feingold allowed George Soros to buy elections for his puppets, who in turn allowed him to extract great wealth from America.

McCain & Feingold were "usefull idiots" at best. Complicit kleptocrats is more likely.

alan markus said...

Sounds like Feingold and the Democrats are being a little deceitful on this issue (I hear the AFL-CIO also collects dues from foreigners & that they give money to Democrat candidates - pretty much the same as the Chamber).

Starting Lineup: Hail Mary Time:

Chamber Attack Backfiring? The White House's attacks on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hit a few road bumps over the weekend. The New York Times reported that the Chamber isn't doing anything unusual with how it collects its dues - no different than labor organizations that frequently back Democratic candidates. On CBS's "Face The Nation," Bob Schieffer pointedly asked White House advisor David Axelrod, "is that the best you can do?"

Obama toned down the attacks a little bit at his Philadelphia rally yesterday. The fact that the White House is focused on an inside-baseball campaign finance issue, instead of the economy shows how bad the political environment is for Democrats this year.

DCCC Gets In On The Act: Democrats, however, aren't backing down. The DCCC is launching a "significant" online ad campaign on Monday targeting conservative third party groups. The two web ads, obtained by Hotline On Call, read: "Don't Let Them Buy Congress, Stand Up And Fight Back" and "Shady GOP Front Groups, Foreign Corporations, Big Insurance, Wall Street Tycoons." It's unclear how effective a campaign tactic this will be, but it is sure to help Democrats raise money.