U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue vowed Tuesday to "ramp up" political advertising in the final weeks before the Nov. 2 election and accused the Obama administration of conducting a smear campaign against the chamber.
In a defiant letter to the chamber's board of directors, Donohue denied White House and Democratic claims that the chamber has used foreign money to pay for its political ads this election campaign.
"It's sad to watch the White House stoop to these depths and try to salvage an election," Donohue wrote.
The chamber has run a wave of ads, most supporting Republicans. Last week it pumped more than $10 million into key battleground states. Democrats sought to discredit the chamber by questioning its sources of funding but have offered no proof to back up their claims. Federal law prohibits foreign money in U.S. elections.
Other organizations that participate in elections receive foreign money. They are required to isolate those funds so they don't get used for political purposes. Foreign companies with U.S. divisions also can create political action committees that accept donations from their U.S. employees.
But the administration and its Democratic allies have focused on the chamber and on GOP-allied groups. On Monday Vice President Joe Biden said, "I challenge the Chamber of Commerce to tell us how much of the money they're investing is from foreign sources. I challenge them. If I'm wrong I will stand corrected. But show me, show me."
In his letter, Donohue said the money the chamber receives from overseas business councils and non-U.S. firms is a small fraction of its total revenues of $200 million. He said the chamber employs "strict financial controls" to ensure that foreign money is segregated from political spending.
"Let me be clear," he wrote. "The chamber does not use any foreign money to fund voter education activities _ period."
The chamber has clashed time and again with the administration on issues ranging from health care to climate legislation, even though it strongly backed Obama's demand for a big economic stimulus bill early in 2009.
"If we succumb to threats and intimidation and become distracted or silenced, the only voices left will be those of the unions and other antibusiness activists," Donohue wrote.
Union spending on election ads has been dwarfed by that of the chamber and Republican allied groups that have raised millions, much of it from undisclosed donors.
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