Schieffer shoots down White House smears against the Chamber of Commerce

Obama advisor David Axelrod appeared on CBS Face the Nation this morning and was grilled on unsubstantiated accusations made by President Obama and the Democratic National Committee — which originated with left-wing groups –  that the Chamber of Commerce was secretly taking foreign money to fund its election campaign ads.

The New York Times has already panned the allegations as “spin”:

[A] closer examination shows that there is little evidence that what the chamber does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents.In fact, the controversy over the Chamber of Commerce financing may say more about the Washington spin cycle — where an Internet blog posting can be quickly picked up by like-minded groups and become political fodder for the president himself — than it does about the vagaries of campaign finance.

Organizations from both ends of the political spectrum, from liberal ones like the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and the Sierra Club to conservative groups like the National Rifle Association, have international affiliations and get money from foreign entities while at the same time pushing political causes in the United States.

And so Axelrod is suddenly forced to defend this. And the following exchange is truly incredible. Axelrod, in a true “When did you stop beating your wife?” moment, repeats the allegations, suggests that the Chamber of Commerce is hiding something, then admits he has no evidence to back it up:

SCHIEFFER: The president’s words on the trail last week were, groups that received foreign money are spending huge sums to influence american elections. Let’s just look at this ad that the Democrats put out today:

“Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie, they’re Bush cronies. the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, they’re shills for big business. And they’re stealing our democracy. Spending millions from secret donors to elect republicans to do their bidding in congress. It appears they even have taken secret foreign money to influence our elections. It’s incredible. Republicans benefiting from secret foreign money.”

SCHIEFFER: Now, I want to ask you about that because the New York Times looked into the Chamber specifically and said the Chamber really isn’t putting foreign money into the campaign. that it does charge its foreign affiliates dues that bring in less than $100,000 a year. A lot of organizations, including labor unions, do that. But the Chamber has an annual budget of $200 million. Along with that it keeps these foreign dues separate. They do spend heavily in politics — $25 million so far. They expect to spend $50 million. But this part about foreign money, that appears to be peanuts, Mr. Axelrod. do you have any evidence that it’s anything other than peanuts?

AXELROD: Well, do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob? The fact is that the Chamber has asserted that but they won’t release any information about where their campaign money is coming from. That’s at the core of the problem here. What we’ve seen in part because of a loophole that the Supreme Court allowed earlier this year, we now see tens of millions of dollars being spent by the chamber and a number of organizations some of which just cropped up. Ed Gillespie and Karl Rove run one of them. Tens of millions of dollars from undisclosed donors under benign names like the american cross roads fund. They’re spending heavily in all of these elections. one race in Colorado, there are six different organizations running negative ads against the Democratic senator there, Michael Bennet. No one knows where the money is coming from. My question back to you and for your next guest is, why not simply disclose where this money is coming from? And then all of these questions will be answered.

SCHIEFFER: that will certainly be fine with me. I want to go back to this thing about the Chamber of Commerce. if they’re only taking in $100,000….

AXELROD: If they are.

SCHIEFFER: But you question that.

AXELROD: I don’t know. No one knows, Bob. The point is I can assert anything I want. But you have as a good journalist, you would ask me how do we know that’s true? Do you have documentation to prove that? If the Chamber opens up its books and says here’s where our political money is coming from, here are the million dollar, two or three million dollar contributions we’ve gotten from this company or that industry, then we’ll know. But until they do that, all we have is their assertion.

SCHIEFFER: Do you… I guess I would put it this way. If the only charge three weeks into the election that the Democrats can make is that somehow this may or may not be foreign money coming into the campaign, is that the best you can do?

By Axelrod’s standard, any smear brought up by Think Progress and its ilk is to be presumed true, and the burden of proof falls upon those falsely accused. If this logic prevails, perhaps we should all become Birthers, because their argument is essentially the same.

But what’s most important here isn’t any question of the Chamber’s good name — I expect that this controversy makes most people’s eyes glaze over — but the fact that Democrats have no better ammo than this. They’ve spend two years dragging America, kicking and screaming, in a direction it doesn’t want to go. They have completely alienated independent voters and senior citizens, they have nearly lost their advantage among women, and they lost two impossible-to-lose elections in New Jersey and Massachusetts.

I once believed, as many did, that President Obama was invincible. But thanks to his leadership, Democrats are on the verge of an electoral catastrophe unlike anything we’ve seen in at least one decade, possibly three or more. Large political expenditures by outside groups will surely help some of them over the cliff — that pushed many Republicans over in 2006 — but the Democrats can only blame themselves for playing along the edge.

We’ve all heard about a naked Rahm Emanuel twisting arms to help Obama’s unpopular legislation pass, but I’ve never heard of anyone at the Chamber of Commerce holding a gun to anyone’s head and forcing them to vote for Obamacare.

Beltway ConfidentialChamber of CommerceDavid AxelrodUS

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