Journolist, or its functional equivalent, must be alive, well, and working overtime somewhere in cyberspace. At least that’s my explanation for how accusations of impropriety and illegality against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spread in about a day’s time, from the lefty Think Progress blog, to Huffington Post left-winger Sam Stein, to MSNBC, and then to editorial pages of the New York Times and, via funnyman Al Franken, to the U.S. Senate.
The allegation is that, in the words of Think Progress, “the Chamber is likely skirting longstanding campaign finance law that bans the involvement of foreign corporations in American elections.” Supposedly, the Chamber is doing so by using money from foreign corporations associated with Chamber affiliates overseas in U.S. elections.
I’d like to make three points about this claim. First, there doesn’t appear to be any evidence to support it. The Chamber says it has a process in place to ensure that foreign funds are not spent in U.S. elections. If so, as I understand it, there is no unlawful conduct. Moreover, neither Think Progress nor any those who picked up their claim, appears to have any evidence that contradicts what the Chamber says. Simply put, the left’s attack on the Chamber appears to be made up out of whole cloth.
Second, as the Center for Competitive Politics points out, there is a serious tension between the claim of Think Progress and other leftists that the Chamber’s alleged conduct violates the law and the standard leftist talking point that the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United opened the floodgates to foreign spending in U.S. elections. In reality, as Think Progress’ allegations of illegality against the Chamber acknowledge, foreign spending in U.S. elections remains illegal. Again, however, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that the Chamber is facilitating such foreign spending.
Third, Think Progress’ fallback position is that even if the Chamber isn’t putting foreign money into American campaigns, money is fungible, so that foreign money frees up other money for campaigns. But to the extent this argument has any validity, it also applies to a number of unions. The AFL-CIO has a robust foreign program. Moreover, as the Center for Competitive Politics notes, the Service Employees International Union represents employees in Canada. So does the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. And the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has members not just in Canada but also in Panama and several Caribbean nations. Don’t their dues free up money that these powerhouse unions can use in U.S. political campaigns?
The Chamber’s conduct is no more scandalous than that of these unions, which is to say, on the evidence presented so far, it is not scandalous at all.
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