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Chamber Fights Accusations of Foreign Funding Behind Its Political Attack Ads

The issue of foreign money finding its way into U.S. elections is always sure to get people’s blood boiling. When President Obama suggested that Americans for

Jul 31, 202022.6K Shares444.4K Views
The issue of foreign money finding its way into U.S. elections is always sure to get people’s blood boiling. When President Obama suggested that Americans for Prosperity — a 501(c)(4) group that sponsors Tea Party rallies but declines to disclose its individual donors — might be receiving foreign funding in a speechhe gave in Austin, he was roundly vilifiedby right-wing blogs for his “attempted character assassination” of the group.
Now the liberal blog Think Progress has released the results of an investigationinto the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s finances that argues the group draws its campaign spending funds out of its general account, which also solicits foreign funding:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has created a large presence in the small, oil-rich country of Bahrain. In 2006, the Chamber created a local affiliate called the “U.S.-Bahrain Business Council” (USBBC), an organization to help businesses in Bahrain take advantageof the Chamber’s “network of government and business relationships in the US and worldwide.” As the USBBC’s bylawsstate, it is not an actual separate entity, rather it is simply an office of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 501(c)(6) trade association. Many of the USBBC’s board members are Bahrainian, including Aluminum Bahrain, Gulf Air, Midal Cables, the Nass Group, Bahrain Maritime & Mercantile International, the Bahrain Petroleum Company (state-owned), Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company, and First Leasing Bank. With each of these foreign board members to the USBBC contributing at least $10,000 annually, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce raises well over $100,000a year in money from foreign businesses through its operation in Bahrain. [...]
Like the Chamber’s involvement in Bahrain, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce operates in India through a group called “U.S.-India Business Council” (USIBC), which has offices around the world but is headquartered in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Dozens of Indian businesses, including some of India’s largest corporationslike the State Bank of India (state-run) and ICICI Bank, are members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce through the USIBC. Annual membership dues range from $7,500 to $15,000 or more, and the money is given directlyinto the Chamber’s 501(c)(6) bank account. Like the USBBC, the USIBC generates well over $200,000 a year in dues for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from foreign businesses.
There’s no evidence that foreign money literally went to the $75 million the Chamber plans to spend on U.S. campaigns, but it doesn’t seem like there’s any real safeguard in place to prevent it from happening, either. The Chamber eventually provided a responsevia Politico’s Ben Smith, but campaign finance reform groups say it basically amounts to a “trust me.”
Meanwhile, the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP), which advocates against campaign finance restrictions, has gotten in on the actby asking why Think Progress didn’t also look at unions’ international membership dues:
But if the question can and should be asked of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, what about other entities that receive funds from foreign entities? For example, the Wikipedia entry on the Service Employees International Unionstates:
“Service Employees International Union(SEIU) is a labor union representing about 1.8 million workers in over 100 occupations in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.”
Likewise, the International Brotherhood of Teamstersalso reports members (and therefore, member dues) from Canada, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workershas members not just in Canada but also Panama and several Caribbean nations.
Presumably, these groups have “systems” in place as well, but the CCP did not appear to ask them for comment — or provide any references at all, for that matter, apart from their Wikipedia entries.
Rhyley Carney

Rhyley Carney

Reviewer
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