Saturday, October 30, 2010

Americans' Incomes Sank After Bush Tax Cuts

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On Sunday, House Minority Leader John Boehner called Democrats' refusal to hold a pre-election vote on extending the Bush tax cut windfall for the wealthy the "most irresponsible thing that I have seen since I have been in Washington, D.C." And in one sense, he's right. After all, the national debt doubled during Bush's tenure. His was the worst eight-year economic record of any modern president. Worse still, by 2007 the U.S. reached levels of income inequality not since 1929. And now, it turns out, Americans' incomes dropped ominously after the tax cuts Bush bragged "meant people had more money in their pocket."

That latest indictment of the reckless Bush tax giveaway to the rich comes from tax expert David Cay Johnston. Just days after the Census Bureau reported a jump in poverty during even before the start of the December 2007 Bush recession, Johnston reported, "Total income was $2.74 trillion less during the eight Bush years than if incomes had stayed at 2000 levels."

After asking, "So how did the tax cuts work out?" Johnston paints a grim picture of economic failure:

Even if we limit the analysis by starting in 2003, when the dividend and capital gains tax cuts began, through the peak year of 2007, the result is still less income than at the 2000 level. Total income was down $951 billion during those four years.

Average incomes fell. Average taxpayer income was down $3,512, or 5.7 percent, in 2008 compared with 2000, President Bush's own benchmark year for his promises of prosperity through tax cuts.

Had incomes stayed at 2000 levels, the average taxpayer would have earned almost $21,000 more over those eight years. That's almost $50 per week.

And to be sure, the Bush tax cuts which have already drained the Treasury of $2.3 trillion were a major contributor to the record U.S. income gap:

In only two of the eight Bush years, 2006 and 2007, were average incomes higher than in 2000, but the gains were highly concentrated at the top. Of the total increase in income in 2007 over that in 2005, nearly 30 percent went to taxpayers who made $1 million or more...

One of every eight dollars of the tax cuts went to the 1 in 1,000 taxpayers in the top tenth of 1 percent, the annual threshold for which was in the $2 million range throughout the last administration.

The horror story hardly ends there. Despite Republican supply-side mythmaking that "every major tax cut we've had in history has created more revenue," Johnston revealed that despite a 10.1% increase in the number of taxpayers, inflation-adjusted individual income tax revenues declined by 11.8% between 2000 and 2008. By then, average adjusted gross income slumped to $58,005 from $61, 517 eight years earlier when, you guessed, the top Clinton-era tax rate was the same 39.6% to which Barack Obama wants to return.

And as Congress - and voters - ponder the Republican pledge to deliver another $700 billion, 10-year windfall for the richest 2% of taxpayers, Johnston highlights the free ride President Bush already gave them:

The number of people reporting incomes of $200,000 or more but legally paying no federal income taxes skyrocketed in the second Bush term. A decade ago it was fewer than 1,500 taxpayers; in 2000 it was about 2,300. This high-income, tax-free group jumped to more than 11,000 in 2007 and then doubled in 2008 to more than 22,000.
In 2008 nearly 1 in every 200 high-income taxpayers paid no federal income tax, up from about 1 in 1,500 in 1998.
The share of high incomes that were untaxed increased more than sevenfold to one dollar of every $166.
As should be clear, the side winning the class war is the only one fighting it. To quote would-be Speaker Boehner, to perpetuate that massive upward redistribution of income is indeed "irresponsible." Or, as David Cay Johnston rightly concluded:

This is economic madness. It is policy divorced from empirical evidence. It is insanity because the policies are illusory and delusional. The evidence is in, and it shows beyond a shadow of a reasonable doubt that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts failed to achieve the promised goals.

Attacking Social Security

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Social Security turned 75 last week. It should have been a joyous occasion, a time to celebrate a program that has brought dignity and decency to the lives of older Americans.

But the program is under attack, with some Democrats as well as nearly all Republicans joining the assault. Rumor has it that President Obama’s deficit commission may call for deep benefit cuts, in particular a sharp rise in the retirement age.

Social Security’s attackers claim that they’re concerned about the program’s financial future. But their math doesn’t add up, and their hostility isn’t really about dollars and cents. Instead, it’s about ideology and posturing. And underneath it all is ignorance of or indifference to the realities of life for many Americans.

About that math: Legally, Social Security has its own, dedicated funding, via the payroll tax (“FICA” on your pay statement). But it’s also part of the broader federal budget. This dual accounting means that there are two ways Social Security could face financial problems. First, that dedicated funding could prove inadequate, forcing the program either to cut benefits or to turn to Congress for aid. Second, Social Security costs could prove unsupportable for the federal budget as a whole.

But neither of these potential problems is a clear and present danger. Social Security has been running surpluses for the last quarter-century, banking those surpluses in a special account, the so-called trust fund. The program won’t have to turn to Congress for help or cut benefits until or unless the trust fund is exhausted, which the program’s actuaries don’t expect to happen until 2037 — and there’s a significant chance, according to their estimates, that that day will never come.

Meanwhile, an aging population will eventually (over the course of the next 20 years) cause the cost of paying Social Security benefits to rise from its current 4.8 percent of G.D.P. to about 6 percent of G.D.P. To give you some perspective, that’s a significantly smaller increase than the rise in defense spending since 2001, which Washington certainly didn’t consider a crisis, or even a reason to rethink some of the Bush tax cuts.

So where do claims of crisis come from? To a large extent they rely on bad-faith accounting. In particular, they rely on an exercise in three-card monte in which the surpluses Social Security has been running for a quarter-century don’t count — because hey, the program doesn’t have any independent existence; it’s just part of the general federal budget — while future Social Security deficits are unacceptable — because hey, the program has to stand on its own.

It would be easy to dismiss this bait-and-switch as obvious nonsense, except for one thing: many influential people — including Alan Simpson, co-chairman of the president’s deficit commission — are peddling this nonsense.

And having invented a crisis, what do Social Security’s attackers want to do? They don’t propose cutting benefits to current retirees; invariably the plan is, instead, to cut benefits many years in the future. So think about it this way: In order to avoid the possibility of future benefit cuts, we must cut future benefits. O.K.

What’s really going on here? Conservatives hate Social Security for ideological reasons: its success undermines their claim that government is always the problem, never the solution. But they receive crucial support from Washington insiders, for whom a declared willingness to cut Social Security has long served as a badge of fiscal seriousness, never mind the arithmetic.

And neither wing of the anti-Social-Security coalition seems to know or care about the hardship its favorite proposals would cause.

The currently fashionable idea of raising the retirement age even more than it will rise under existing law — it has already gone from 65 to 66, it’s scheduled to rise to 67, but now some are proposing that it go to 70 — is usually justified with assertions that life expectancy has risen, so people can easily work later into life. But that’s only true for affluent, white-collar workers — the people who need Social Security least.

I’m not just talking about the fact that it’s a lot easier to imagine working until you’re 70 if you have a comfortable office job than if you’re engaged in manual labor. America is becoming an increasingly unequal society — and the growing disparities extend to matters of life and death. Life expectancy at age 65 has risen a lot at the top of the income distribution, but much less for lower-income workers. And remember, the retirement age is already scheduled to rise under current law.

So let’s beat back this unnecessary, unfair and — let’s not mince words — cruel attack on working Americans. Big cuts in Social Security should not be on the table.

104 Republicans In Congress Want To Privatize Social Security

After their attempt to privatize Social Security in 2005 was met with widespread public outcry, the GOP’s strategy on Social Security has been two-fold. First, Republicans deny they are interested in privatization. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) recently told the Wall Street Journal that “no one has a proposal up to cut Social Security,” (his own book proposes doing so), while conservatives in the media have tried to argue that Republicans don’t actually want to privatize Social Security.

The second tactic has been to obfuscate their privatization plans by sugarcoating them in flowery, palatable language. President Bush’s privatization plan is a prime example. In his 2005 State of the Union, President Bush said we needed to “save” Social Security and give younger workers a “better deal” by having “voluntary personal retirement accounts,” the poll-tested language for privatization. Bush now says his greatest failure was not privatizing Social Security.

However, such rhetoric belies their record. A thorough review of the voting records and statements of Republicans in Congress reveals a critical mass of GOPers who have supported privatizing Social Security. In total, 47 percent of House Republicans and 49 percent of Senate Republicans are on record supporting the privatization of Social Security. Some, including Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), want to go even further and “wean everybody” off of Social Security altogether.

As ThinkProgress noted yesterday, Republicans in Congress have long operated by the “majority of the majority” principle, whereby legislation is only advanced by a GOP Speaker if it is supported by a majority of Republicans. With many prominent GOP candidates in favor of privatizing or eliminating Social Security, including Rand Paul, Ken Buck, Dan Coats, Sharron Angle, Dan Benishek, Ben Quayle, Star Parker, and Jesse Kelly, it’s likely that a GOP-controlled Congress would have the necessary votes to revisit the issue.

Here are the 104 Republicans in Congress who support privatizing Social Security (leadership in bold):

Senate (20)

Jeff Sessions (AL) Richard Shelby (AL) Jon Kyl (AZ)
John McCain (AZ) Saxby Chambliss (GA) Chuck Grassley (IA)
Richard Lugar (IN) Pat Roberts (KS) Sam Brownback (KS)
Mitch McConnell (KY) Roger Wicker (MS) Thad Cochran (MS)
Judd Gregg (NH) James Inhofe (OK) Tom Coburn (OK)
Jim DeMint (SC) Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX) Bob Bennett (UT)
Orrin Hatch (UT) Mike Enzi (WY)

House of Representatives (84)

Jo Bonner (AL-01) Spencer Bachus (AL-06) Trent Franks (AZ-02)
Wally Herger (CA-02) Dan Lungren (CA-03) Devin Nunes (CA-21)
David Dreier (CA-26) Jerry Lewis (CA-41) Ken Calvert (CA-44)
Dana Rohrabacher (CA-46) John Campbell (CA-48) Darrell Issa (CA-49)
Duncan Hunter (CA-52) Doug Lamborn (CO-05) Jeff Miller (FL-01)
Ander Crenshaw (FL-04) Ginny Brown-Waite (FL-05) Cliff Stearns (FL-06)
Adam Putnam (FL-12) Connie Mack (FL-14) Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18)
Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25) Jack Kingston (GA-01) Lynn Westmoreland (GA-03)
Tom Price (GA-06) John Linder (GA-07) Phil Gingrey (GA-11)
Tom Latham (IA-04) Steve King (IA-05) Judy Biggert (IL-13)
John Shimkus (IL-19) Dan Burton (IN-05) Mike Pence (IN-06)
Rodney Alexander (LA-05) Roscoe Bartlett (MD-06) Pete Hoekstra (MI-02)
Vern Ehlers (MI-03) David Lee Camp (MI-04) John Kline (MN-02)
Erik Paulsen* (MN-03) Todd Akin (MO-02) Roy Blunt (MO-07)
Virginia Foxx (NC-05) Howard Coble (NC-06) Sue Myrick (NC-09)
Patrick McHenry (NC-10) Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01) Lee Terry (NE-02)
Scott Garrett (NJ-05) Peter King (NY-03) John Boehner (OH-08)
John Sullivan (OK-01) Tom Cole (OK-04) Jim Gerlach* (PA-06)
Bill Shuster (PA-09) Joseph Pitts (PA-16) Joe Wilson (SC-02)
Gresham Barrett (SC-03) Bob Inglis (SC-04) Zach Wamp (TN-03)
Marsha Blackburn (TN-07) Louie Gohmert (TX-01) Sam Johnson (TX-03)
Jeb Hensarling (TX-05) Joe Barton (TX-06) Kevin Brady (TX-08)
Michael McCaul (TX-10) Mike Conaway (TX-11) Mac Thornberry (TX-13)
Ron Paul (TX-14) Randy Neugebauer (TX-19) Kenny Marchant (TX-24)
Michael Burgess (TX-26) John Carter (TX-31) Pete Sessions (TX-32)
Rob Bishop (UT-01) Jason Chaffetz (UT-03) Eric Cantor (VA-07)
Doc Hastings (WA-04) Dave Reichert (WA-08) Paul Ryan (WI-01)
Tom Petri (WI-06) Shelley Moore Capito (WV-02) Cynthia Lummis (WY-AL)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Top Corporations Aid U.S. Chamber of Commerce Campaign

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Prudential Financial sent in a $2 million donation last year as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce kicked off a national advertising campaign to weaken the historic rewrite of the nation’s financial regulations.

Dow Chemical delivered $1.7 million to the chamber last year as the group took a leading role in aggressively fighting proposed rules that would impose tighter security requirements on chemical facilities.

And Goldman Sachs, Chevron Texaco, and Aegon, a multinational insurance company based in the Netherlands, donated more than $8 million in recent years to a chamber foundation that has been critical of growing federal regulation and spending. These large donations — none of which were publicly disclosed by the chamber, a tax-exempt group that keeps its donors secret, as it is allowed by law — offer a glimpse of the chamber’s money-raising efforts, which it has ramped up recently in an orchestrated campaign to become one of the most well-financed critics of the Obama administration and an influential player in this fall’s Congressional elections.

They suggest that the recent allegations from President Obama and others that foreign money has ended up in the chamber’s coffers miss a larger point: The chamber has had little trouble finding American companies eager to enlist it, anonymously, to fight their political battles and pay handsomely for its help.

And these contributions, some of which can be pieced together through tax filings of corporate foundations and other public records, also show how the chamber has increasingly relied on a relatively small collection of big corporate donors to finance much of its legislative and political agenda. The chamber makes no apologies for its policy of not identifying its donors. It has vigorously opposed legislation in Congress that would require groups like it to identify their biggest contributors when they spend money on campaign ads.

Proponents of that measure pointed to reports that health insurance providers funneled at least $10 million to the chamber last year, all of it anonymously, to oppose President Obama’s health care legislation.

“The major supporters of us in health care last year were confronted with protests at their corporate headquarters, protests and harassment at the C.E.O.’s homes,” said R. Bruce Josten, the chief lobbyist at the chamber, whose office looks out on the White House. “You are wondering why companies want some protection. It is pretty clear.”

The chamber’s increasingly aggressive role — including record spending in the midterm elections that supports Republicans more than 90 percent of the time — has made it a target of critics, including a few local chamber affiliates who fear it has become too partisan and hard-nosed in its fund-raising.

The chamber is spending big in political races from California to New Hampshire, including nearly $1.5 million on television advertisements in New Hampshire attacking Representative Paul W. Hodes, a Democrat running for the United States Senate, accusing him of riding Nancy Pelosi’s “liberal express” down the road to financial ruin.

“When you become a mouthpiece for a specific agenda item for one business or group of businesses, you better be damn careful you are not being manipulated,” said James C. Tyree, a former chairman of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, who has backed Republicans and Democrats, including Mr. Obama. “And they are getting close to that, if not over that edge.”

But others praise its leading role against Democrat-backed initiatives, like health care, financial regulation and climate change, which they argue will hurt American businesses. The Obama administration’s “antibusiness rhetoric” has infuriated executives, making them open to the chamber’s efforts, said John Motley, a former lobbyist for the National Federation of Independent Business, a rival.

“They’ve raised it to a science, and an art form,” he said of the chamber’s pitches to corporate leaders that large contributions will help “change the game” in Washington.

As a nonprofit organization, the chamber need not disclose its donors in its public tax filings, and because it says no donations are earmarked for specific ads aimed at a candidate, it does not invoke federal elections rules requiring disclosure.

The annual tax returns that the chamber releases include a list of all donations over $5,000, including 21 in 2008 that each exceed $1 million, one of them for $15 million. However, the chamber omits the donors’ names.

But intriguing hints can be found in obscure places, like the corporate governance reports that some big companies have taken to posting on their Web sites, which show their donations to trade associations. Also, the tax filings of corporate foundations must publicly list their donations to other foundations, including one run by the chamber.

These records show that while the chamber boasts of representing more than three million businesses, and having approximately 300,000 members, nearly half of its $140 million in contributions in 2008 came from just 45 donors. Many of those large donations coincided with lobbying or political campaigns that potentially affected the donors.

Dow Chemical, for example, sent $1.7 million to the chamber in the past year to cover not only its annual membership dues, but also to support lobbying and legal campaigns. Those included one against legislation requiring stronger measures to protect chemical plants from attack.

A Dow spokesman would not discuss the reasons for the large donation, other than to say it supports the chamber’s work.

Prudential Financial’s $2 million donation last year coincided with a chamber lobbying effort against elements of the financial regulation bill in Congress. A spokesman for Prudential, which opposed certain proposed restrictions on the use of financial instruments known as derivatives, said the donation was not earmarked for a specific issue.

But he acknowledged that most of the money was used by the chamber to lobby Congress.

“I am not suggesting it is a coincidence,” said the spokesman, Bob DeFillippo.

More recently, the News Corporation gave $1 million to support the chamber’s political efforts this fall; Chairman Rupert Murdoch said it was in best interests of his company and the country “that there be a fair amount of change in Washington.”

Business interests also give to the chamber’s foundation. Its tax filings show that seven donors gave the foundation at least $17 million between 2004 and 2008, about two-thirds of the total raised.

These donors include Goldman Sachs, Edward Jones, Alpha Technologies, Chevron Texaco and Aegon, which has American subsidiaries and whose former chief executive, Donald J. Shepard, served for a time as chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s board.

Another large foundation donor is a charity run by Maurice R. Greenberg, the former chairman of the insurance giant A.I.G. The charity has made loans and grants totaling $18 million since 2003. U.S. Chamber Watch, a union-backed group, filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service last month asserting that the chamber foundation violated tax laws by funneling the money into a chamber “tort reform” campaign favored by A.I.G. and Mr. Greenberg. The chamber denied any wrongdoing.

The complaint, which the chamber calls entirely unfounded, raises the question of how the chamber picks its campaigns, and whether it accepts donations that are intended to be spent on specific issues or political races.

The chamber says that it consults with members on lobbying targets, but that it does not make those decisions based on the size of a donation or accept money earmarked to support a specific political candidate.

Endorsement decisions, chamber officials said, are based on candidates’ votes on a series of business-related bills, and through consultations with the chamber’s regional directors, state affiliates and members.

To avoid conflicts of interest, individual businesses do not play a role in deciding on which races to spend the chamber’s political advertising dollars. The choices instead are made by the chamber’s political staff, based on where it sees the greatest chance of getting pro-business candidates elected, chamber executives said.

“They are not anywhere near a room when we are making a decision like that,” Mr. Josten said, of the companies that finance these ads. The chamber’s extraordinary money push began long before this election season. An organization that in 2003 had an overall budget of about $130 million, it is spending $200 million this year, and the chamber and its affiliates allocated $144 million last year just for lobbying, making it the biggest lobbyist in the United States.

In January, the chamber’s president, Thomas J. Donohue, a former trucking lobbyist, announced that his group intended “to carry out the largest, most aggressive voter education and issue advocacy effort in our nearly 100-year history.”

The words were carefully chosen, as the chamber asserts in filings with the Federal Election Commission that it is simply running issue ads during this election season. But a review of the nearly 70 chamber-produced ads found that 93 percent of those that have run nationwide that focus on the midterm elections either support Republican candidates or criticize their opponents.

And the pace of spending has been relentless. In just a single week this month, the chamber spent $10 million on Senate races in nine states and two dozen House races, a fraction of the $50 million to $75 million it said it intends to spend over all this season. In the 2008 election cycle, it spent $33.5 million.

To support the effort, the chamber has adopted an all-hands-on-deck approach to fund-raising. Mr. Josten said he makes many of the fund-raising calls to corporations nationwide, as does Mr. Donohue. (Both men are well compensated for their work: Mr. Donohue was paid $3.7 million in 2008, and has access to a corporate jet and a chauffeur, while Mr. Josten was paid $1.1 million, tax records show.)

But those aggressive pitches have turned off some business executives. “There was an arrogance to it like they were the 800-pound gorilla and I was either with them with this big number or I just did not matter,” said Mr. Tyree, of Chicago.

Another corporate executive, who asked not to be named, said the chamber risks alienating its members.

“Unless you spend $250,000 to $500,000 a year, that is what they want for you to be one of their pooh-bahs, otherwise, they don’t pay any attention to you at all,” the executive said, asking that the company not be identified.

Chamber officials acknowledge the tough fund-raising, but they say it has been necessary in support of their goal of remaking Congress on Election Day to make it friendlier to business.

“It’s been a long and ugly campaign season, filled with partisan attacks and political squabbling,” William C. Miller Jr., the chamber’s national political director, said in a message sent to chamber members this week. “We are all tired — no doubt about it. But we are so close to bringing about historic change on Capitol Hill.”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Over A Million Jobs Lost In Districts Where Pro-Outsourcing Chamber Advertises

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By George Zornick

Two simple facts remain irrefutable when it comes to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s election spending. First, the Chamber accepts foreign money, which by its own admission goes into a general 501(c)(6) account. Second, the Chamber is buying massive amounts of political advertising from that account — just this week, the Chamber spent an unprecedented $10 million on advertising in competitive House and Senate districts.

The Chamber has yet to reveal who, exactly, is funding these attack ads, though they claim we should trust them that foreign money is not being used. While that remains an open question, the Chamber’s political agenda is not: it has long advocated for policies that outsource American jobs to foreign countries. The Chamber’s CEO, Tom Donohue, frequently defends outsourcing: for example, in 2004, he said “there are legitimate values in outsourcing — not only jobs, but work.” Recently, the Chamber came out against a Senate bill that would have discouraged outsourcing.

Today, a new report by the nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog Campaign Money Watch found that more than 1.4 million jobs were outsourced since 1994 in the nine states in which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is spending significant money. The group also found that more than 184,000 jobs were lost to outsourcing in the 22 congressional districts in which the Chamber has spent $4.8 million on political ads in the same time period.

From the report, here’s what the Chamber spent last week in Senate races, and how many jobs were lost to outsourcing there since 1994:

More data is available at Campaign Money Watch. “The Chamber is raising foreign corporate money and supporting policies that lead to the outsourcing of American jobs overseas,” said David Donnelly, the group’s director. “The 31 Senate and House candidates who are benefiting from political spending by the pro-outsourcing Chamber should address the controversy surrounding their foreign funding.”

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Kissing Cousins: How The U.S. Chamber Of Commerce And American Crossroads Hook Up To Elect Republicans

Original Link:

By Scott Keyes

Following ThinkProgress’s exclusive report detailing how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce actively solicits foreign money and funds its attack ads against Democrats, many are calling for a Justice Department investigation. Similarly, two campaign finance watchdog groups have called on the IRS to investigate a shadowy group set up by Karl Rove and former RNC chair Ed Gillespie, Crossroads GPS, which is connected to the 527 group American Crossroads. Though both groups — the Chamber and American Crossroads — had flown under the radar by taking advantage of legal loopholes that allow them to avoid disclosing their funders, the extent of their shadowy practices has only recently become clear.

Now, a new investigation by ThinkProgress details just how intertwined the two groups are in their quest to advance a conservative political agenda. At every turn, from the operatives running the two organizations to their targeted races to their media firms, American Crossroads and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are bound to one another. Prior to becoming President and CEO of American Crossroads, Steven Law served as chief legal officer and general counsel of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. His duties included personally overseeing the legal side of the Chamber’s multimillion-dollar political program.

Similarly, the man currently in charge of the Chamber’s political activities, Bill Miller, has a history with Law and Rove. In April, the three met along with other GOP consultants, to coordinate how to jointly fight Wall Street reform. The very next day, Miller sent out an e-mail directing all Chamber members to fight reform and Rove appeared on Fox News to peddle his theory that the Wall Street reform bill would result in the government snooping into “everybody’s checking account.”

In addition to the cooperation between top operatives, the two groups have exhibited uncanny coordination in their election targeting. In a number of Senate races, the Chamber and American Crossroads coordinated their advertisements – one group put up ads in a race as the other group pulled its own down – in order to ensure attack ads were always running against the Democratic candidate. Consider the dates of each group’s ads in the following Senate races:

Crossroads GPS ads: 8/18-9/3
Chamber of Commerce ads: 9/3-9/8
American Crossroads ads begin: 09/15

Crossroads GPS ads: 8/18-9/6
Chamber of Commerce ads: 9/3-9/15
American Crossroads begin: 9/15

Crossroads GPS ads: 8/23-9/6
Chamber of Commerce ads: 9/3-9/15
American Crossroads ads begin: 9/22

New Hampshire
Chamber of Commerce ads: 8/25-9/7
American Crossroads ads begin: 9/21

Chamber of Commerce ads: 9/3-9/15
American Crossroads ads begin: 09/28

According to FEC records, the two groups also use the same media firm, Mentzer Media, to produce their attack ads.

The Chamber-Crossroads Alliance has manifested itself in a few other ways as well. News Corp., the parent company of Fox News where Karl Rove is a paid contributor, recently donated $1 million to the Chamber of Commerce. Just yesterday, Gillespie appeared on MSNBC and declared that he’s “glad” that American Crossroads is out there along with the Chamber of Commerce. And both groups go to great lengths to conceal its donors from the public eye.

Together, the the Chamber-Crossroads Alliance account for $127 million in planned spending this election, nearly one-third of the $400 million total pledged by outside conservative groups. But until Congress passes sensible campaign finance reform, we will never know exactly who – or which country – is funding their political attack ads

Stop the Anonymous Hit Men: Make Shadowy Campaign Money the Issue

Original Link:

By Paul Loeb

I've been going door-to-door canvassing, and it's not that bad -- really. It's actually kind of fun. But only because I've found a way to break through people's cynicism.

No wonder people are cynical. Crashing from the sky-high hopes of two years ago, people are worried about jobs, the economy and their own uncertain futures, about the wars we're bogged down in and the threats to our planet. They don't like where America is headed, don't like most politicians or candidates, and are often uncertain whether their vote even matters. But when I talked about the takeover of our politics by destructive corporate interests, culminating in the barrage of anonymous attack ads unleashed by the Supreme Court's ghastly Citizens United decision, they quickly became willing to listen.

So I'm delighted the Democrats are finally hitting back at the US Chamber of Commerce and other Republican front groups for dumping millions of dollars of untraceable corporate contributions into the election, with the total likely to exceed $300 million. But the Democrats need to do more, and we do as well, as ordinary citizens. We need to make the buying of our democracy the salient issue of the coming election and beyond, because it affects everything else that we need to change.

So how do we do this in the few remaining weeks before the elections? We need to talk about the ads of all the front groups from the Chamber of Commerce to Karl Rove's American Crossroads and the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity. But we also need to highlight the Republican justices who overruled a century of precedent to enact Citizens United. And talk about how Republican Senators have stood in unison to prevent requiring corporate interests to at least put their names on their ads.

From what I can tell, most Americans are most vaguely aware of the DISCLOSE Act, the transparency legislation that a Republican filibuster blocked by a single vote. When they do find out, they're outraged, because anonymous attack ads are an affront to even the barest standards of fairness, whatever one's political beliefs. In fact, Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have long argued that so long as people knew who was paying for campaign ads, there was no need to regulate them through campaign finance reform or counterbalance them with public financing. "We ought to have full disclosure," said Boehner in 2007, "full disclosure of all of the money that we raise and how it is spent. And I think that sunlight is the best disinfectant." Yet since Citizens United opened the floodgates for monied interests to drown out the rest of our voices, Republican leaders and their key allies have done everything they can to foster anonymous and untraceable attacks from the shadows.

Frustrated as voters are with the state of America, including with the Democrats' own frequent capitulation to corporate interests, most still don't want our government to become the wholly owned property of BP, Exxon, AIG, Goldman Sachs, Verizon, and all the other corporations (including foreign ones) who can now buy our elections without people even knowing they're involved. Obama, the Democrats, and progressive organizations therefore need to keep talking about the issue repeatedly and forcefully, through their speeches, debate points, and ads, and through the talking points they circulate for campaign volunteers. As ordinary citizens we have to do our part as well -- knocking on doors, making phone calls and talking to friends, neighbors and coworkers who may be discontented with the Democrats, but would draw the line at furthering the total capture of our democracy by the most powerful economic interests on the planet. Or at least they would if we gave them the chance to have a conversation. But we can't just leave the issue up to the candidates.

Of course we also need to tackle the issue beyond November. Public financing of campaigns would help immensely, using the model of $5 contributions and public matching funds that's worked wonderfully in Maine, Vermont and even Arizona. This model remains legal even under the new Supreme Court rules, and would reduce the corporate influence on both parties, because while the Republicans are the current recipients of massive business dollars, the Democrats have also been influenced and their policies corrupted by them--as when Senators like Max Baucus, Kent Conrad, Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln took massive dollars from health care interests, and then used the threat of joining a Republican filibuster to vastly water down the original House bill. Public financing can also complement a push to reverse Citizens United through Congressional legislation, grassroots organizing, and perhaps a constitutional amendment. But for now, we need to focus on whether or not those running to represent us at least recognize our right to know who is trying to buy our votes. The political allegiances are clear from the DISCLOSE Act. If we work well enough at explaining why the money matters, it could tip race after close race, and help us begin to rein in the power of unaccountable greed.

The Secret Big-Money Takeover of America

Original Link:

By Robert Reich

Not only is income and wealth in America more concentrated in fewer hands than it’s been in 80 years, but those hands are buying our democracy as never before – and they’re doing it behind closed doors.

Hundreds of millions of secret dollars are pouring into congressional and state races in this election cycle. The Koch brothers (whose personal fortunes grew by $5 billion last year) appear to be behind some of it, Karl Rove has rounded up other multi-millionaires to fund right-wing candidates, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is funneling corporate dollars from around the world into congressional races, and Rupert Murdoch is evidently spending heavily.

No one knows for sure where this flood of money is coming from because it’s all secret.

But you can safely assume its purpose is not to help America’s stranded middle class, working class, and poor. It’s to pad the nests of the rich, stop all reform, and deregulate big corporations and Wall Street – already more powerful than since the late 19th century when the lackeys of robber barons literally deposited sacks of cash on the desks of friendly legislators.

Credit the Supreme Court’s grotesque decision in Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission, which opened the floodgates. (Even though 8 of 9 members of the Court also held disclosure laws constitutional, the decision invited the creation of shadowy “nonprofits” that don’t have to reveal anything.)

According to FEC data, only 32 percent of groups paying for election ads are disclosing the names of their donors. By comparison, in the 2006 midterm, 97 percent disclosed; in 2008, almost half disclosed.

Last week, when the Senate considered a bill to force such disclosure, every single Republican voted against it – thereby revealing the GOP’s true colors, and presumed benefactors. (To understand how far the GOP has come, nearly ten years ago campaign disclosure was supported by 48 of 54 Republican senators.)

Maybe the Disclose Bill can get passed in lame-duck session. Maybe the IRS will make sure Karl Rove’s and other supposed nonprofits aren’t sham political units. Maybe pigs will learn to fly.

In the meantime we face an election that marks an even sharper turn toward plutocratic capitalism than before – a government by and for the rich and big corporations — and away from democratic capitalism.

As income and wealth has moved to the top, so has political power. That’s why, for example, it’s been impossible to close the absurd tax loophole that allows hedge-fund and private-equity managers to treat much of their income as capital gains, subject to a 15 percent tax (even though they’re earning tens or hundreds of millions a year, and the top 15 hedge-fund managers earned an average of $1 billion last year). Why it proved impossible to fund expanded health care by limiting the tax deductions of the very rich. Why it’s so difficult even to extend George Bush’s tax cuts for the bottom 98 percent of Americans without also extending them for the top 2 percent – even though the top won’t spend the money and create jobs, but will blow a $36 billion hole in the federal budget next year.

The good news is average Americans are beginning to understand that when the rich secretly flood our democracy with money, the rest of us drown. Wall Street executives and top CEOs get bailed out while under-water homeowners and jobless workers sink.

A Quinnipiac poll earlier this year found overwhelming support for a millionaire tax.

But what the public wants means nothing if our democracy is secretly corrupted by big money.

Right now we’re headed for a perfect storm: An unprecedented concentration of income and wealth at the top, a record amount of secret money flooding our democracy, and a public in the aftershock of the Great Recession becoming increasingly angry and cynical about government. The three are obviously related.

We must act. We need a movement to take back our democracy. (If tea partiers were true to their principles, they’d join it.) As Martin Luther King once said, the greatest tragedy is “not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

What can you do?

1. Read Justice Steven’s dissent in the Citizens United case, so you’re fully informed about the majority’s pernicious illogic.

2. Use every opportunity to speak out against this decision, and embarrass and condemn the right-wing Justices who supported it.

3. In this and subsequent elections, back candidates for congress and president who vow to put Justices on the Court who will reverse it.

4. Demand that the IRS enforce the law and pull the plug on Karl Rove and other sham nonprofits.

5. If you have a Republican senator, insist that he or she support the Disclose Act. If they won’t, campaign against them.

6. Support public financing of elections.

7. Join an organization like Common Cause, that’s committed to doing all this and getting big money out of politics. (Personal note: I’m so outraged at what’s happening that I just became chairman of Common Cause.)

8. Send this post to your friends (including any tea partiers you may know)

Chamber Receives At Least $885,000 From Over 80 Foreign Companies In Disclosed Donations Alone

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By Lee Fang

Last week, ThinkProgress published an exclusive story about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s foreign fundraising operation. We noted the Chamber raises money from foreign-owned businesses for its 501(c)(6) entity, the same account that finances its unprecedented $75 million dollar partisan attack ad campaign. While the Chamber is notoriously secretive, the thrust of our story involved the disclosure of fundraising documents U.S. Chamber staffers had been distributing to solicit foreign (even state-owned) companies to donate directly to the Chamber’s 501(c)(6).

We documented three different ways the Chamber fundraises from foreign corporations: (1) An internal fundraising program called “Business Councils” used to solicit direct, largely foreign contributions to the Chamber, (2) Direct contributions from foreign multinationals like BP, Siemens, and Shell Oil, and (3) From the Chamber’s network of AmCham affiliates, which are foreign chambers of the Chamber composed of American and foreign companies. The Chamber quickly acknowledged that it receives direct, foreign money, but simply replied, “We are not obligated to discuss our internal procedures.” 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 84 other foreign companies that actively donate to the Chamber’s 501(c)(6). Below is a chart detailing the annual dues foreign corporations have indicated that they give directly to the Chamber (using information that is publicly available from the Business Council applications and the Chamber’s own websites)

Veterans Group Files FEC Complaint Against The Chamber: Foreign Funds Pose 'Clear And Present Danger' To U.S. Democracy

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By Amanda Terkel

Nonprofits, now emboldened to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on with no disclosure this election cycle, are beginning to face complaints at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Federal Election Commission (FEC). While most of these complaints have come from campaign finance reform groups, a veterans organization is jumping into the fray.

On Monday, the Veterans' Alliance for Security and Democracy (VetPAC) filed an FEC complaint against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the FEC, alleging that the organization's potential use of foreign funds for political purposes represents a "clear and present danger to our democracy." From the letter to the FEC, obtained by The Huffington Post:

We understand that organizations may have "a reasonable accounting method" to separate funds into their general operations budget. However, the prohibition on foreign nationals indirectly contributing to U.S. elections should require additional scrutiny in the case of organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where even segregated funds within their general operating budget could be said to indirectly finance their campaign work, given the volume of such activity as a percentage of their overall expenditures. [...]

Given the unseemly amounts of funds being poured into campaigns, we ask that you move expeditiously to require full disclosure of the funding sources of the U.S. Chamer of Commerce. Their actions present a clear and present danger to our democracy by shielding the electorate from the identities of foreign influences that are lurking behind the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's massive campaign spending.

"Our military veterans, who served to protect the Constitution of the United States, are concerned that foreign money could be used to influence our policies and buy seats in the House and Senate," said Lorin Walker, VetPAC vice president and treasurer. "The Chamber's actions compromise the very rights for which our military men and women put their lives on the line.

The letter is in response to a report by ThinkProgress, which raised questions about whether the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is using foreign money to fund its political activities.

"As we've said before, the U.S. Chamber fully complies with all applicable laws and regulations," said Bruce Josten, executive vice president of Government Affairs for the Chamber, in a statement to The Huffington Post. "These baseless attacks on a pro-business group like the Chamber is an attempt to distract Americans from a failed economic agenda just two weeks before Election Day. It's time to return to the discussion that Americans care most about: creating jobs. We're going to stay focused on representing and advocating for an agenda of economic growth and speaking out against policies that are counter to those objectives."

As The Huffington Post reported earlier, just because a group files a complaint with the FEC doesn't mean it will necessarily go anywhere. It faces a complicated process that could take years to complete -- if it even gets past the first-round vote by a group of commissioners who often deadlock on major decisions.

Worse Than Watergate?

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By Mike Lux

A couple of weeks back I suggested that the strong possibility that the Chamber and Rove's American Crossroads group were taking and using money from foreign companies for their scores of millions of dollars in attack ads was the biggest story of this election cycle. This money comes from undisclosed sources, and the secretive nature of these millions in contributions raises huge doubts about who these sources are, what their motives are, and what industries and countries they come from. We know the Chamber is taking a minimum of over $800,000 from foreign companies, and the total is likely many millions more -- the 800 is what researchers have been able to find from a smattering of public materials, but we know there is more the Chamber isn't telling us. The Chamber and Rove deny they are using foreign money for their ad campaign, but since they vehemently, adamantly refuse to disclose their donors, we can't know the truth. If it is not foreign money, fine: just tell us how much Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Bank of America, BP, Massey Mining, Prudential and all the rest of your corporate special interest friends are giving.

The White House and other Democrats have been right to jump all over this: this is as fundamental issue to our democracy as there is. Tim Kaine raised the stakes again today, suggesting that the potential scandal involved was as big a deal as Watergate. My only disagreement is that in many ways, this is worse. The slush fund money Dick Nixon's operation raised and spent was penny ante compared to the money being raised today.

Corporate special interests are trying to buy this election. Whenever another nasty attack ad comes on the tube paid for the Chamber, American Crossroads, or some groups with a mysterious name you have never heard, ask yourself:

•Where did they get the money for that ad?

•Why did the companies giving millions of dollars to run this ad want to help the Republican candidate they are helping?

•What sweetheart deals will the candidates they are helping be doing for those big contributors?

•Why should we believe anything we are seeing on this ad, given the people paying for it don't want you to know who is behind it?

If this sleazy, secretive strategy works for Rove and the Chamber, and if nothing is done to require disclosure of these fat cat donors, our democracy truly is in trouble for a long time to come. Let's hope the voters ask themselves those questions.

Chamber Of Commerce Funded By Top Offshoring Companies

Original Link:

By Brad Johnson

While it tells the American public it cares about American jobs, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce actually works to send jobs overseas on behalf of its corporate members, which include some of Asia’s top offshoring companies. Its secretly-funded $75 million political ad campaign attacks the “anti-jobs record” of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jerry Brown (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Alexi Giannoulias (D-IL), Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), and others.

As ThinkProgress previously noted, the Chamber has repeatedly sent out issue alerts attacking Democratic efforts to encourage businesses to hire locally rather than outsource to foreign counties. The Chamber has also bitterly fought Democrats for opposing unfettered free trade deals. The Chamber’s anti-American jobs agenda serves not only the profit-seeking of right-wing corporate executives in the United States, but also works to send jobs overseas to the following outsourcing companies, who are some of the dozens of foreign corporations that pay member dues to the Chamber of Commerce’s 501c(6) account, which is used to fund its political ads:

– InfoSys, Bangalore, India (at least $15,000 in annual member dues): “Infosys is the ‘Best Outsourcing Partner’ according to the Waters Rankings for the third consecutive year.”

– KPIT Cummins, Pune, India ($7,500): “Strategic global networking, together with industry-proven practices & processes, give KPIT Cummins a cutting edge in the realm of outsourcing.”

– Patni Americas, Mumbai, India ($15,000): “Patni, the world leader in IT outsourcing and business process outsourcing provides offshore software development, global sourcing, custom software development, and a vast array of product engineering and IT services to companies worldwide.”

– NIIT Technologies, Delhi, India ($15,000): “[L]eadership in the area of outsourcing.”

– QuEST Global, Singapore ($7,500): “QuEST is a leader in the engineering services outsourcing (ESO) space.”

– Rolta, Mumbai, India ($7,500): “Rolta’s global footprint and track record along with its capable off-shoring model gives it a unique positioning in this large market.”

– SKP Crossborder Consulting, Mumbai, India ($7,500): “SKP’s core outsourcing practice is managed out of a fully equipped, spacious premises based in Pune with access to facilities in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi and Bangalore.”

– Tata Group, Mumbai, India ($15,000): “[W]orld-class solutions in outsourcing – business process outsourcing, application outsourcing, infrastructure outsourcing.”

– Wipro, Bangalore, India ($15,000): “India’s biggest destination for U.S. offshoring.”

In its “American Free Enterprise” campaign, the Chamber says that there is no “greater or more important” policy challenge “than creating the 20 million jobs needed in the next decade to replace the jobs lost in the current recession and to meet the needs of America’s growing workforce.” Perhaps the Chamber should actually start working toward that goal of creating jobs in America, instead of promoting the offshoring agenda of its foreign sponsors.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fear and Favor

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A note to Tea Party activists: This is not the movie you think it is. You probably imagine that you’re starring in “The Birth of a Nation,” but you’re actually just extras in a remake of “Citizen Kane.”

True, there have been some changes in the plot. In the original, Kane tried to buy high political office for himself. In the new version, he just puts politicians on his payroll.

I mean that literally. As Politico recently pointed out, every major contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination who isn’t currently holding office and isn’t named Mitt Romney is now a paid contributor to Fox News. Now, media moguls have often promoted the careers and campaigns of politicians they believe will serve their interests. But directly cutting checks to political favorites takes it to a whole new level of blatancy.

Arguably, this shouldn’t be surprising. Modern American conservatism is, in large part, a movement shaped by billionaires and their bank accounts, and assured paychecks for the ideologically loyal are an important part of the system. Scientists willing to deny the existence of man-made climate change, economists willing to declare that tax cuts for the rich are essential to growth, strategic thinkers willing to provide rationales for wars of choice, lawyers willing to provide defenses of torture, all can count on support from a network of organizations that may seem independent on the surface but are largely financed by a handful of ultrawealthy families.

And these organizations have long provided havens for conservative political figures not currently in office. Thus when Senator Rick Santorum was defeated in 2006, he got a new job as head of the America’s Enemies program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a think tank that has received funding from the usual sources: the Koch brothers, the Coors family, and so on.

Now Mr. Santorum is one of those paid Fox contributors contemplating a presidential run. What’s the difference?

Well, for one thing, Fox News seems to have decided that it no longer needs to maintain even the pretense of being nonpartisan.

Nobody who was paying attention has ever doubted that Fox is, in reality, a part of the Republican political machine; but the network — with its Orwellian slogan, “fair and balanced” — has always denied the obvious. Officially, it still does. But by hiring those G.O.P. candidates, while at the same time making million-dollar contributions to the Republican Governors Association and the rabidly anti-Obama United States Chamber of Commerce, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, which owns Fox, is signaling that it no longer feels the need to make any effort to keep up appearances.

Something else has changed, too: increasingly, Fox News has gone from merely supporting Republican candidates to anointing them. Christine O’Donnell, the upset winner of the G.O.P. Senate primary in Delaware, is often described as the Tea Party candidate, but given the publicity the network gave her, she could equally well be described as the Fox News candidate. Anyway, there’s not much difference: the Tea Party movement owes much of its rise to enthusiastic Fox coverage.

As the Republican political analyst David Frum put it, “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us, and now we are discovering we work for Fox” — literally, in the case of all those non-Mitt-Romney presidential hopefuls. It was days later, by the way, that Mr. Frum was fired by the American Enterprise Institute. Conservatives criticize Fox at their peril.

So the Ministry of Propaganda has, in effect, seized control of the Politburo. What are the implications?

Perhaps the most important thing to realize is that when billionaires put their might behind “grass roots” right-wing action, it’s not just about ideology: it’s also about business. What the Koch brothers have bought with their huge political outlays is, above all, freedom to pollute. What Mr. Murdoch is acquiring with his expanded political role is the kind of influence that lets his media empire make its own rules.

Thus in Britain, a reporter at one of Mr. Murdoch’s papers, News of the World, was caught hacking into the voice mail of prominent citizens, including members of the royal family. But Scotland Yard showed little interest in getting to the bottom of the story. Now the editor who ran the paper when the hacking was taking place is chief of communications for the Conservative government — and that government is talking about slashing the budget of the BBC, which competes with the News Corporation.

So think of those paychecks to Sarah Palin and others as smart investments. After all, if you’re a media mogul, it’s always good to have friends in high places. And the most reliable friends are the ones who know they owe it all to you.

China Makes Its Big Move Into U.S. Politics Through The U.S. Chamber Of Commerce

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By DownWithTyranny

The nefarious U.S. Chamber of Commerce has turned itself into a funnel for cash from the worst international actors on the planet, actors willing to ante up millions of dollars to get easily manipulatable Republicans into office. As we pointed out, before, China is willing to spend whatever it takes to make John Boehner Speaker and to insert stooges like Ron Johnson and Roy Blunt into the Senate. Yesterday CQPolitics reported that the Chamber has more than doubled its spending on political attack ads since Tuesday. Their foreign-financed attack ads are aimed primarily against Paul Hodes (D-NH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Joe Sestak (D-PA), Robin Carnahan (D-MO), Alexi Giannoulias (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Charlie Crist (I-FL) and in support of Republicans who enthusiastically support trade policies which ship good-paying American jobs to low wage hellholes like China.

This week President Obama warned that the Chamber's use of foreign money in their election strategy is undermining American democracy. "Just this week, we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these ad regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So 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.

"So this isn’t just a threat to Democrats. All Republicans should be concerned. Independents should be concerned. This is a threat to our democracy. The American people deserve to know who’s trying to influence their elections. And if we just stand by and allow the special interests to silence anybody who’s got the guts to stand up to them, our country’s going to be a very different place."

More than a few Democratic candidates, though, obviously not the reactionary Blue Dogs who the U.S. Chamber is also showering with yuans and rubles-- Frank Kratovil (MD), Glenn Nye (VA), Travis Childers (MS), Jim Marshall (GA) &, obviously, Bobby Bright (AL)-- are shouting "foul." And yesterday Joe Sestak went on the attack on one of the worst of the GOP candidates who is aiding and abetting China's economic aggression towards America, Pat Toomey who "admitted that he would side with China at the expense of American workers on a bill aimed at preventing China from manipulating its currency." Sestak pointed to an Associated Press report showing that Toomey "opposes the bipartisan legislation, placing him in radical opposition to every U.S. House member from Pennsylvania." Toomey has long opposed "Buy American" campaigns and in his book, Road To Prosperity, a crazed right-wing screed written for him by a Club For Growth staffer, he calls "buy America language" an "unfortunate tendency."

“Congressman Toomey finally broke his silence but only to let Pennsylvanians know that he continues to favor China over American workers. More and more jobs are being sent overseas every day. Rather than force China to play by the rules, Congressman Toomey wants to take away all safeguards that protect American jobs,” said Sestak spokesman Jonathon Dworkin.

China has been able to flood the market with cheaper goods as a result of its currency manipulation which place American companies and workers at an unfair disadvantage. The bill, which Joe co-sponsored, would allow the U.S. to seek sanctions against China and other countries that manipulate their currency. The measure passed the U.S. House of Representatives last week in an overwhelmingly bipartisan manner, 348-79.

Joe Sestak is one of only six candidates for the Senate that Blue America is recommending progressives contribute to.

Foreign-Funded ‘U.S.’ Chamber Of Commerce Running Partisan Attack Ads

Original Link:

By Lee Fang

The largest attack campaign against Democrats this fall is being waged by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a trade association organized as a 501(c)(6) that can raise and spend unlimited funds without ever disclosing any of its donors. The Chamber has promised to spend an unprecedented $75 million to defeat candidates like Jack Conway, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jerry Brown, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), and Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA). As of Sept. 15th, the Chamber had aired more than 8,000 ads on behalf of GOP Senate candidates alone, according to a study from the Wesleyan Media Project. The Chamber’s spending has dwarfed every other issue group and most political party candidate committee spending. A ThinkProgress investigation has found that the Chamber funds its political attack campaign out of its general account, which solicits foreign funding. And while the Chamber will likely assert it has internal controls, foreign money is fungible, permitting the Chamber to run its unprecedented attack campaign. According to legal experts consulted by ThinkProgress, the Chamber is likely skirting longstanding campaign finance law that bans the involvement of foreign corporations in American elections.

In recent years, the Chamber has become very aggressive with its fundraising, opening offices abroad and helping to found foreign chapters (known as Business Councils or “AmChams”). While many of these foreign operations include American businesses with interests overseas, the Chamber has also spearheaded an effort to raise money from foreign corporations, including ones controlled by foreign governments. These foreign members of the Chamber send money either directly to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, or the foreign members fund their local Chamber, which in turn, transfers dues payments back to the Chamber’s H Street office in Washington DC. These funds are commingled to the Chamber’s 501(c)(6) account which is the vehicle for the attack ads:

– 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 advantage of the Chamber’s “network of government and business relationships in the US and worldwide.” As the USBBC’s bylaws state, 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 $100,000 a year in money from foreign businesses through its operation in Bahrain. Notably, the membership form provided by the USBBC directs applicants to send or wire their money directly to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The membership form also explicitly states that the foreign-owned firms are welcomed.

– 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 corporations like 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 directly into 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. On the USIBC website, many of the groups lobbying goals advocate changing American policy to help businesses in India. Under the manufacturing policy goal, USIBC boasts that it “can play a helpful role in guiding U.S. companies to India, while supporting various policy initiatives that will enhance India’s reputation as a major manufacturing and investment hub.”

– Many foreign “AmChams” or Business Councils operate outside the direct sphere of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce but nonetheless send dues money back to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. For instance, the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt is a separate entity based in Cairo that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars from both Egyptian firms and American businesses. However, the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt calls itself “the most active affiliates of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in the” Middle East. Another foreign chamber, like the Abu Dhabi AmCham, which includes American firms and Esnaad, a subsidiary of the state-run Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, claims that it is a a “dues paying member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and part of the global network of American Chambers of Commerce.” In Russia, the relationship between the American Chamber of Commerce there and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce here is opaque. This might be because many of the dues-paying members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia are Russian state-run companies, like VTB Bank, and controlled by the Russian government. Asked by ThinkProgress if the Russian Chambers pay dues back to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Ksenia Forsheneva, the membership development manager at the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, replied, “Unfortunately the information that you require is closed for the public.”

Previously, it has been reported that foreign firms like BP, Shell Oil, and Siemens are active members of the Chamber. But on a larger scale, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce appears to rely heavily on fundraising from firms all over the world, including China, India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Russia, and many other places. Of course, because the Chamber successfully lobbied to kill campaign finance reforms aimed at establishing transparency, the Chamber does not have to reveal any of the funding for its ad campaigns. Dues-paying members of the Chamber could potentially be sending additional funds this year to help air more attack ads against Democrats.

Here’s how it works. Regular dues from American firms to the Chamber can range from $500 to $300,000 or more, depending on their size and industry, and can be used for any purpose deemed necessary by the Chamber leadership. For example, the health insurance giant Aetna has reported that it paid $100,000 in annual dues to the Chamber in the past. But for specific advocacy or advertising campaigns, corporations can hide behind the label of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and give additional money. Last year, alongside their regular dues, health insurance companies like Aetna secretly funneled up to $20 million to the Chamber for attack ads aimed at killing health reform (publicly, health insurance executives claimed they supported reform). Last week, Politico reported that News Corporation, the parent company of Fox News, gave an extra $1 million to the Chamber for its election season attack campaign.

There are many reasons foreign corporations are seeking to defeat Democratic candidates this November. The Chamber has repeatedly sent out issue alerts attacking Democratic efforts to encourage businesses to hire locally rather than outsource to foreign counties. The Chamber has also bitterly fought Democrats for opposing unfettered free trade deals. To galvanize foreign businesses, the Chamber has commissioned former Ambassador Frank Lavin — who served as the McCain-Palin Asia campaign director and has appeared on television multiple times recently saying a Democratic Congress is bad for business — to speak before various foreign Chamber affiliates to talk about the stakes for the 2010 midterm elections.

Because campaign finance laws prohibit foreign entities from contributing to political races here in America, we asked the Chamber to defend the legality of its fundraising operation. We have yet to receive a response. But as word of our investigation began to leak out yesterday, the Chamber informed Politico’s Mike Allen that it is now “preparing a response.”