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White House, Obama Jump Into Chamber Funding Debate

First Posted: 10/07/10 01:06 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 06:55 PM ET

Obama

UPDATE BELOW: Obama addresses the Chamber

For the second time in as many days, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called on the Chamber of Commerce and other politically active groups to unveil their donors as the election approaches.

Speaking to a gaggle of reporters, Gibbs was asked to address the wave of largely anonymous money being poured into a variety of races from conservative-leaning groups like American Crossroads.

"I think the best thing to do for the America people would be to let everyone see all of the supporters. Let everyone see who has supported each of the different entities... by letting the American people know exactly who has written checks," said Gibbs. "There is certainly somebody in each of the organizations that must know and I would think that you could let the American people know where that money is coming from, who is advertising in what state, what interest they represent and what they have at stake in the outcome of that election."

Asked if he would apply this demand to the Chamber of Commerce, which, this week, was reported to have taken contributions from foreign entities for possible use in its $75 million electioneering program, Gibbs replied "yes."

"This goes for every group," he said. "This is for groups on either side of the political spectrum."

The White House's entrance into the debate around the Chamber's funding echoes, largely, the same script that the president and his advisers have offered for months. Faced with an avalanche of outside-government conservative spending, the push has been for greater disclosure (more so, than say, counteracting legislation).

But the administration has also been loath to wage another fight with the business lobby -- and there was noticeable care with the way Gibbs offered his response. Others in the Democratic Party, for instance, have gone so far as to demand an FEC investigation into the Chamber's funds. On Thursday, moreover, the nonpartisan watchdog group Campaign Money Watch called on 31 federal candidates to demand that the Chamber be more transparent about the use of its foreign corporate dues in political advertising.

Noting that the Chamber has placed nearly $10.5 million in attack ads this week alone, David Donnelly, director of Campaign Money Watch, said:

"The Chamber has admitted to taking foreign corporate money, and they're spending up to $75 million to elect a pro-special interest Congress... Republican candidates in the nine Senate and 22 House districts who are benefiting from this money should disavow it until such time the Chamber can verify, beyond a doubt, that no foreign corporate money is funding their partisan attack ads."

UPDATE: Now the President has piled on, not referencing the Chamber by name but telling a rally in Maryland on Thursday that foreign donors were influencing elections through third party organizations.

Just this week, we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these ad regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections. And they won't tell you where the money for the ads come from.

So this isn't just a threat to Democrats. All Republicans should be concerned. Independents should be concerned. This is a threat to our democracy. The American people deserve to know who's trying to influence their elections. And if we just stand by and allow the special interests to silence anybody who's got the guts to stand up to them, our country's going to be a very different place.

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