The New York Times published a must-read article today deconstructing the coordinated smear campaign by the White House, Congressional Democrats, and their soft-money, pro-regulation allies alleging that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce used funds from foreign sources to finance its issue advocacy advertisements critical of the Democrats’ anti-business policy agenda.
Specifically, Congressional Democrats during the past few weeks have repeatedly alleged that the Chamber is using foreign national funds to finance its advertisements. In fact, the President himself has made the allegation in public speeches designed to energize his deflated followers. Of course, the President and Congressional Democrats did not even reference the millions of dollars their labor union allies have earmarked for the 2010 midterm elections to defend vulnerable Democrats.
White House officials, however, have now made on-the-record comments to the New York Times that they have no evidence to support these erroneous claims. From the article:
White House officials acknowledged Friday that they had no specific evidence to indicate that the chamber had used money from foreign entities to finance political attack ads.
“The president was not suggesting any illegality,” Bob Bauer, the White House counsel, said. Instead, he said Mr. Obama’s reference to the chamber was meant to draw attention to the inadequacies of campaign disclosure laws in allowing groups to spend large amounts of money on politics without disclosing their donors.
This is a stunning admission. If the White House or any other federal government official has a problem with the system, discuss the system.
During past cycles, this type of smear campaign has been conducted by soft money, pro-regulation groups that file factually-inaccurate, legally-incorrect complaints with the Federal Election Commission, Internal Revenue Service, or Department of Justice, or a combination of these governmental agencies. These filings are released to the press in an effort to suppress private donations to finance constitutionally protected political speech.
This cycle is different. While the soft money, pro-regulation groups recently filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service demanding an investigation of a conservative nonprofit, we are also seeing federal government officials use the power of their offices to silence their critics. The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service demanding an investigation of pro-business and conservative nonprofits, and another Senator sent a letter to the Federal Election Commission demanding a similar investigation. These letters were sent in their official capacity as federal officeholders, not candidates for office. These actions should alarm anyone who believes that the discussion of important issues of the day and the actions of government officials should be wide-open and robust.
These developments are further evidence demonstrating why flawed legislation such as the DISCLOSE Act, Fair Election Now Act (publicly financing of congressional elections), and other legislative and regulatory proposals designed to chill political speech and tilt the electoral playing field in favor of Democrats must be defeated.