Sunday, September 12, 2010

U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Caught Illegally Funneling Funds Into Republican Campaigns


So far this year the official U.S. Chamber of Commerce PAC has donated directly to 14 Senate candidates. Not every one of them is a Republican. However, every one of them is extremely conservative and every one of them is extremely corrupt. Fittingly, the biggest single chunk went to the architect of the Bush era trade policies that destroyed the U.S. manufacturing base and sent American jobs to low wage countries like China and Mexico, Rob Portman, who's running in Ohio, one of the states which suffered most from his tenure as U.S. Trade Rep.

I didn't mean to make it sound like the Chamber of Horrors is bipartisan in any real sense. 13 of the 14 recipients of their PAC checks were Republicans, slimy, easily bribed incumbents like Richard Burr, David Vitter, John Thune, John McCain and Chuck Grassley, and Senate wannabes with proven track records as corporate shills like derivatives trader Pat Toomey, lobbyist Dan Coats, wheeler-dealer Roy Blunt, congenital liar Mark Kirk and Wall Street troll Mike Castle. And the 14th? Come on... it doesn't tale much. Stop and think for a moment... who's the most corrupt and reactionary Democrat seeking reelection in November. Go right to the bottom of the barrel... and then keep going-- and you'll find the Chamber's idea of a bipartisan Democrat. New to the Internet? Here's the final hint.

Eric Lichtblau, for the NYTimes yesterday, reported on one aspect of the U.S. Chamber's systemic corruption and criminality. It might not be even close to the worst of what these people are up to, but it's the one they got caught doing-- sort of the way Al Capone was finally nailed for tax evasion.
With a war chest rivaling that of the Republican Party itself, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has emerged in the last year as perhaps the Obama administration’s most-well-financed rival on signature policy debates like health care and financial regulation.

Critics on the left have long complained about the chamber’s outsize influence. But now they are taking on the business association directly, charging in a complaint filed Friday with the Internal Revenue Service that it violated tax codes by laundering millions of dollars meant for charitable work from a group with ties to the insurance giant A.I.G.

The complaint was brought by a group called U.S. Chamber Watch, which was created four months ago-- with the strong financial backing of labor unions-- to scrutinize the Chamber of Commerce’s growing influence and provide a counterbalance.

...At issue in the complaint against the Chamber of Commerce is whether the group mixed funds for charitable and noncharitable political purposes in violation of tax codes.
The chamber, often using expensive mass-market radio and TV spots, has weighed in on many major public policy debates in recent months, including the Obama administration’s health care policy, business regulations, campaign finance laws and Internet rules, as well as job creation and the threat of tax hikes. On many issues, it has pushed for less government regulation in favor of free-market incentives.

Now the chamber’s political arm is turning to the November elections, and it expects to spend $50 million or more to push pro-business candidates, usually Republicans. As part of a wave of new commercials broadcast this week, the chamber’s California affiliate attacked Senator Barbara Boxer-- a Democrat running for re-election against Carly Fiorina, the former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard-- and accused Ms. Boxer of “destroying jobs” by voting against business.

Cyrus Mehri, a Washington lawyer who brought the I.R.S. complaint on behalf of U.S. Chamber Watch, said in an interview that the chamber’s current political activities were, in effect, being underwritten with money intended for charitable work.

The complaint focuses on loans and grants totaling about $18 million that were made beginning in 2003 to a nonprofit affiliate, the National Chamber Foundation, by the Starr Foundation, a charity started by the founder of A.I.G. and now led by Maurice R. Greenberg, the insurer’s former chairman.

Lawyers for Chamber Watch said their research, based largely on public tax filings, found that none of the principal on some $12 million in loans had been paid back and that the money appeared to have been given to the chamber’s foundation for unrestricted use.

The lawyers said that the money, in violation of nonprofit restrictions, was ultimately funneled to the chamber itself and used to finance broader political causes, including support for legal tort reform to shield companies like A.I.G. from liability. Mr. Greenberg himself had worked to promote restrictions on lawsuits, the complaint notes.

“You have millions of dollars improperly going to the chamber,” said Mr. Mehri, who drafted the complaint with Gail M. Harmon, a Washington lawyer specializing in tax law. “This is not a technical violation.”

When asked if they would return the questionable contributions from the U.S. Chamber, the campaigns of Mark Kirk, Mike Castle, Richard Burr, Roy Blunt and David Vitter all said basically the same thing: "Screw you." Pat Toomey's campaign was so foul that their response can't be reprinted on this blog (and I didn't tape it).



At 3:25 PM, Anonymous DrDick said...

Perhaps it is time for a RICO investigation?

At 11:33 AM, Anonymous me said...

Chamber Of Commerce Caught Illegally Funneling Funds Into Republican Campaigns

So what. The law is meaningless anymore.

I'm not joking. When large crimes from election stealing to war crimes go not just unpunished but uninvestigated, while dope smoking and prostitution are at the top of prosecutors' lists, there is no more law.

When the First Amendment is used to justify corporate domination of all debate, when the Fourth Amendment applies only to politicians, and when the Ninth Amendment is no longer even a distant memory, there is no more Constitution.

We're fucked. The republicans destroyed the country, and the democrats helped them do it.


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