The White House attack on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce isn't about "disclosure." It's about disarmament. While posing as campaign finance champions, the ultimate goal of the Democratic offensive is to intimidate conservative donors, chill political free speech and drain Republican coffers.
Chamber of Commerce official Bruce Josten tried to educate the public. "(W)e know what the purpose here is," he told ABC News. "It's to harass and intimidate." Josten cited protests and threats against chamber members as retribution for ads the organization ran opposing the federal health care takeover.
But this isn't the first time liberal bullyboys have targeted right-leaning contributors. Far from it.
In August 2008, a former Washington director of MoveOn.org -- the smear merchant group that branded Gen. David Petraeus a traitor for overseeing the successful troop surge in Iraq -- announced a brazen witch hunt against Republican donors. Left-wing political operative Tom Matzzie told The New York Times he would send "warning" letters to 10,000 top GOP givers "hoping to create a chilling effect that will dry up contributions." Matzzie bragged of "going for the jugular" and said the warning letter would be just the first step, "alerting donors who might be considering giving to right-wing groups to a variety of potential dangers, including legal trouble, public exposure and watchdog groups digging through their lives."
Defenders of this brown-shirt initiative played the disclosure card -- hey, they were just providing "information" -- to rationalize the public humiliation of GOP donors.
Matzzie also put up a $100,000 bounty for dirt on conservative political groups "to create a sense of scandal around the groups" and dissuade donors from giving money. The effort was cheered by Accountable America adviser Judd Legum, founder of Think Progress -- the same group leading the attack today on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Yet, Matzzie's group, Accountable America, is itself a 501(c)(4) nonprofit entity that shields the identity of its donors. (The group is required by law to remain nonpartisan, but has described itself as "dedicated to electing Democrats to the state legislature across America.") By targeting direct, hard-money contributors who are required to disclose their occupations, addresses and employers, Matzzie's assault simply created a sunshine-evading incentive to steer campaign donations to soft-money groups that protect donor identities. You know, like Accountable America does.