A couple of weeks back I suggested that the strong possibility that the Chamber and Rove's American Crossroads group were taking and using money from foreign companies for their scores of millions of dollars in attack ads was the biggest story of this election cycle. This money comes from undisclosed sources, and the secretive nature of these millions in contributions raises huge doubts about who these sources are, what their motives are, and what industries and countries they come from. We know the Chamber is taking a minimum of over $800,000 from foreign companies, and the total is likely many millions more -- the 800 is what researchers have been able to find from a smattering of public materials, but we know there is more the Chamber isn't telling us. The Chamber and Rove deny they are using foreign money for their ad campaign, but since they vehemently, adamantly refuse to disclose their donors, we can't know the truth. If it is not foreign money, fine: just tell us how much Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Bank of America, BP, Massey Mining, Prudential and all the rest of your corporate special interest friends are giving.
The White House and other Democrats have been right to jump all over this: this is as fundamental issue to our democracy as there is. Tim Kaine raised the stakes again today, suggesting that the potential scandal involved was as big a deal as Watergate. My only disagreement is that in many ways, this is worse. The slush fund money Dick Nixon's operation raised and spent was penny ante compared to the money being raised today.
Corporate special interests are trying to buy this election. Whenever another nasty attack ad comes on the tube paid for the Chamber, American Crossroads, or some groups with a mysterious name you have never heard, ask yourself:
- Where did they get the money for that ad?
- Why did the companies giving millions of dollars to run this ad want to help the Republican candidate they are helping?
- What sweetheart deals will the candidates they are helping be doing for those big contributors?
- Why should we believe anything we are seeing on this ad, given the people paying for it don't want you to know who is behind it?
If this sleazy, secretive strategy works for Rove and the Chamber, and if nothing is done to require disclosure of these fat cat donors, our democracy truly is in trouble for a long time to come. Let's hope the voters ask themselves those questions.