U.S. Chamber Chief Says No Money From Foreign Donors Used in Political Ads

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue denied Democratic Party charges that the business lobbying group buys political ads with money from foreign donors, and promised to “ramp up” its election activities.

Of more than $200 million in annual revenue, only a “small fraction” comes from the Chamber’s foreign affiliates and the group has “strict financial controls” to make sure that money doesn’t fund political activities, Donohue said in a letter yesterday to the Chamber’s directors and partners.

Donohue sent the letter in response to attacks on his group that intensified over the weekend. An ad produced by the Democratic National Committee said the Chamber may be taking “secret foreign money to influence our elections,” and David Axelrod, a top adviser to President Barack Obama, singled out the Chamber for criticism on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program.

The foreign money charge is “patently untrue,” Donohue wrote. It’s an effort by Democrats to turn around an election stacked against them, he said.

“They hope that by demonizing those who oppose their failed policies, they can fire up their dispirited and disappointed base and silence our voice,” Donohue wrote.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said yesterday that the Chamber should open its books because the American people don’t know who is paying for its political advertising.

‘Fairly Simple’

“The best way to clear any of this stuff up would simply be to disclose the names, the identities of those donors,” Gibbs said. “It seems like a fairly simple thing to do.”

Obama sounded a similar theme on Oct. 10, criticizing tax- exempt Republican-leaning groups, without naming the Chamber, that are flooding the airwaves with ads to sway the Nov. 2 congressional elections.

“It could be the oil industry” funding the ads, Obama told a Democratic rally in Philadelphia. “It could be the insurance industry, it could even be foreign-owned corporations. You don’t know because they don’t have to disclose.”

The Chamber has already said it’s planning to spend $75 million on this year’s elections. Donohue said yesterday his Washington-based group will not “be silenced.”

“In fact, for the next three weeks leading up to Election Day, you will see us ramp up efforts to educate voters about the positions of candidates of both parties who are committed to free enterprise and economic growth,” he wrote.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kristin Jensen in Washington at kjensen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net.

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