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New Report: U.S. Chamber Could be Using Foreign Funds in Political Attacks

According to a new report by Think Progress, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is using funds from a general account – which in turn receives foreign funding – to pay for political advertisements and attack ads.

The U.S. Chamber and well-funded front groups are able to spend big money on political ads without disclosing the source of their funding – including foreign funding – only because Senate Republicans have blocked the DISCLOSE Act from coming to a vote. This critical legislation would close these election loopholes created by a recent Supreme Court decision and ensure that the voices of the American people aren’t drowned out by a corporate takeover of our elections. In the House, 99% of Congressional Republicans – including every member of the Republican Leadership – voted NO on the DISCLOSE Act. Now the Chamber is protecting these Congressional Republicans with their gargantuan ad buys.

From Think Progress:

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…

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…

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…

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.

The Think Progress report includes a few examples of the U.S. Chamber’s dues-paying foreign chapters.

Russia:

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.

India:

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…Like the USBBC, the USIBC generates well over $200,000 a year in dues for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from foreign businesses.

Egypt:

… 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.’

Bahrain:

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.

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