President Obama and other top Democrats in recent days have stepped up attacks on Republican-linked organizations for allegedly using foreign cash donations in Election 2010. Why are they making such inflammatory charges now?
Just look at the calendar. Time is short, in electoral terms – the midterm vote is now less than a month away. The Democratic Party needs to do all it can to excite and motivate its own base, since GOP voters are already fired up and ready to go, relatively speaking.
Plus, midterms are usually referendums on the party in power. In an effort to try and avoid sweeping losses, the White House may be trying to change the subject by talking up the foreign money allegations.
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Thus the Democratic National Committee has begun airing ads that attack the US Chamber of Commerce as a shill for big business and accuses former Bush administration official Karl Rove, among others, of ties to other organizations that are using donations from overseas to fund campaign activities in America.
“Tell the Bush crowd and the Chamber of Commerce: Stop stealing our democracy,” says the DNC advertisement.
It’s illegal to use foreign money to finance campaign activities in the US. But Democrats as yet have produced no hard evidence of such activity on the part of the US Chamber of Commerce or the Rove-linked American Crossroads group.
Chamber officials have said they receive some money in dues from overseas organizations, but that cash is cordoned off for use in international programs. Labor unions, which are generally supportive of Democrats, often have similar arrangements with foreign affiliates.
“They are tossing out these baseless charges,” said Mr. Rove on an appearance on Fox News Sunday.
Democrats have replied that money is fungible, and that the foreign contributions free up more domestic cash for electoral use.
Meanwhile, the White House has clearly switched into an almost frenzied campaign mode with the election so near and polls showing it is possible that Democrats will lose control of both the House and Senate.
Obama’s Get-the-Vote-Out Message
Mr. Obama has been exhorting Democrats to rise up and get to the polls for weeks. In his Rolling Stone interview in late September, Obama caught up with his interviewers as they were leaving to say he’d forgotten to tell them that it would be “inexcusable” for Democrats to stand on the sidelines this November.
Last week, the president campaigned in Maryland with Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley. On Sunday he was in Philadelphia. On Monday he is scheduled to fly to Florida for appearances in Miami aimed at lighting a fire under reluctant Democratic voters.
As to the foreign money issue, while campaigning in Pennsylvania for US Senate candidate Joe Sestak on Sunday, Obama told a Philadelphia crowd that they “deserve to know” who is paying for the electoral effort of GOP-linked groups that are eligible to receive large donations.
Some of that cash could be foreign, said Obama. “You don’t know because they don’t have to disclose,” he said.
All this is possible because of the way electoral law categorizes the different kinds of groups that carry out political activities. Groups that organize themselves as nonprofits, and also fund actions that are not directly linked to partisan politics, are not required to disclose their donors. More narrowly political groups must identify those who give more than $200.