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Deborah Senn Headshot

The Chamber Doth Protest Too Much

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce denies that it uses foreign money in its independent expenditure campaign needs, but that needs examination in light of the Chamber's track record with campaign finance laws. The Chamber is trying to shift the burden to President Obama to prove what's in the Chamber's secret records. But many of us know that the Chamber and its front groups violate campaign finance laws to accomplish its goals. Here's the proof:

In 2004, when I ran for attorney general of Washington, the Chamber front group, "Voter Education Committee" launched a secret multi million-dollar ad campaign against my candidacy on the airwaves during the primary. Despite a 30-point lead in the polls, I lost the general election. The Chamber didn't like the fact that as Insurance Commissioner, I stood up for consumers against insurance companies -- like I was supposed to do.

The Chamber's front group flaunted and broke our state's public disclosure law by failing to disclosing its secret donors. In the lawsuit that followed the campaign, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that the political committee backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce did indeed break our state's campaign finance laws.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce emails were produced during the lawsuit. Rob Engstrom, the vice president for political affairs at the Chamber wrote in one: "we don't normally disclose our activity." Another email suggested that the Chamber likes to "fly under the radar," code for breaking campaign finance and disclosure laws.

Moreover, the Chamber doesn't tell its own membership what it does -- infuriating several local chambers in my state!

And it's not just one campaign -- the Chamber wants to remake our judicial system:

In Mississippi, in 2002, the Chamber secretly pumped over a million dollars using a front group called "Mississippians for Economic Progress" into a campaign to defeat Supreme Court Justice Chuck McRae. The Chamber didn't like his rulings. He was defeated.

In 2004, in Ohio, the Chamber, through its front group "Citizens for A Strong Ohio," spent $4 million in an attempt to unseat Supreme Court Justice Judith Resnick. The Chamber didn't like her rulings either.

In both Ohio and Mississippi, the Chamber and/or its front groups were sued for violation of campaign finance laws.

In 2004, in Illinois, the Chamber and its front group spent $9.3 million to stop Illinois Appellate Judge Gordon Maag from becoming an Illinois Supreme Court Justice in an effort to reverse Avery v. State Farm -- the case that would have protected the consumers of America by requiring safer auto parts. They didn't like Judge Maag's rulings. The handpicked Chamber justice candidate beat judge Maag. The new guy came on the Illinois Supreme Court and Avery v. State Farm was reversed.

The list goes on. The Chamber has gotten away with it for over a decade. To this day, I don't know who funded the front group or the Chamber in my race for Attorney General. Let's listen to David Axelrod -- if the Chamber is telling the truth -- and not take foreign money. The Chamber should open its books for inspection.

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