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Axelrod: We'll keep pounding outside spending and foreign money

The White House will keep up its assault on outside spending by conservative groups and will continue to press the case about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's foreign money, despite hints of retreat on the latter issue, senior adviser David Axelrod told me in an interview this afternoon.

Axelrod also took a shot at the fact-checkers at multiple news orgs who have concluded there is no evidence for the White House's broadside at the Chamber, suggesting fact-checkers should be "directing their ire" at the Chamber, rather than "in the wrong direction."

"The fact that these front groups are spending hundreds of millions of dollars from undisclosed sources on attack ads to influence these elections is a serious issue and we're going to continue to raise it," Axelrod told me.

He added: "As we've said from the beginning, the prospect that foreign controlled companies might somehow be involved, this was opened up in the Citizens United debate, and it continues to be a concern."

Axelrod allowed that the debate over the Chamber's foreign money was a distraction from the larger issue of anonymous money flooding the midterms. But when pressed on whether the White House and DNC had erred by pressing the foreign cash angle, moving the debate in that direction, he demurred, blaming Republicans and conservative groups.

"The debate is being directed that way as a kind of misdirection play by Karl and others who obviously don't want the focus on where their $150 million or $200 million is coming from," Axelrod said.

Asked to respond to commentators who claim the issue is a political loser at a time when voters are focused on the economy, Axelrod insisted the issue is beginning to work in Dems' favor.

"The phenomenon is beginning to be unmasked," he said. "That's what makes Karl and others so nervous. They thought they could operate under cloak of darkness and now a bright light is being shone."

Axelrod also claimed that the White House was equally opposed to undisclosed money funding the relatively small amount of Chamber ads supporting Dems who opposed health reform, though he refused to call on the Chamber to pull those spots.

"I am for them disclosing where their money comes from whether the ads are for Democrats or Republicans," Axelrod said. "Under the reform law we supported and the Republicans blocked, organizations would have to disclose the sources of their funding whether they're supporting Dems or Republicans."

Many news orgs have concluded there's no evidence that any foreign Chamber money is funding elections here. But Axelrod pushed back, asking why news orgs aren't more irked by the Chamber's lack of disclosure.

"The whole point of disclosure is that you don't really know whether people are complying with the rules unless you know what they're doing," he said. "Do any of the fact checkers have access to the fund that the chamber is using to pay for its 75 million in political activity? If they don't, it seems to me they're directing their ire in the wrong direction."

By Greg Sargent  | October 12, 2010; 5:04 PM ET
Categories:  2010 elections, Campaign finance, House Dems, House GOPers, Senate Dems, Senate Republicans  
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Next: Happy Hour Roundup

Comments

"The phenomenon is beginning to be unmasked," he said. "That's what makes karl and others so nervous. They thought they could operate under cloak of darkness and now a bright light is being shown."

That's clearly so. Rove, Gillespie and others wouldn't be setting out so vigorously on damage control if they weren't anxious that this story hurts them and their electoral hopes.

Posted by: bernielatham | October 12, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

You mean $75 million (as in "dollars")? How does that compare to the $103 million in undisclosed money that the Obama campaign spent during 2008 (see prior thread)? Regardless, I'm glad that Bob Scheiffer couldn't detract David Axelrod from his quest ; )

Posted by: JakeD2 | October 12, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Who will challenge Obama in the 2012 cycle?
*Mark Warner?
*Evan Bayh?
*Ed Rendell (a little older, but has experience and common sense!)?
*Hillary?
Anyone else see the IMF press release recently?? Looks like Obamanomics are holding the world’s recovery back!! They are predicting lower growth in the USA next year!! It is as if Obama is trying to sink the economy of the US – or, he is an economic IDIOT!
Someone needs to take him on that loves and believes in this Country, and is not willing to permit more attacks on the homeland, because we could “ABSORB IT”; or make decisions on war based on “POLITICS”! Wonder how family members with soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines who are deployed feel after hearing the commander in chief make statements that were made in the Woodward book?? For Pete’s sake, if you are not in it to win it, BRING THE TROOPS HOME, and QUIT USING THEM AS OBAMA PAWNS!!
Will be most interesting on November 3!!
My vote goes for a Hillary – Bayh ticket! (EXPERIENCE AND CARING)

Posted by: wheeljc | October 12, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Thanks to the hideous Citizens United decision that the activist right wing Supreme Court justices passed recently, the Extremist Republican party already has the $$$ billions $$$ in "anonymous" Dem attack ads coming from foreign and domestic Mega Corporations and Big Oil cash laundered through the Anti US Chamber of Commerce, and they also have the hardcore right winger oil billionaire Koch brothers and their front man KKKarl Rove busy buying Senate and House seats all over America right now for the Wall Steet loving Extremist Republican party..

Welcome to a new kind of democracy, people, it's called right wing 'fascism'. You won't like it and you won't be able to do a damn thing about it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9mYCU0mH7w
.

Posted by: DrainYou | October 12, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Finally; The White House is getting on my wavelength. They are now starting to message, in a way that I have been framing the issue for quite some time.


Should Anonymous Fat Cats be allowed to hide behind The Chamber Of Commerce and Carl Rove, when they are trying to purchase elections?

Why are those anonymous fat cats afraid to revel who they are?

If The Tea Party crowd are against Washington Politicians taking orders from The Robber Barons Of Wall St, then why are the Tea Party crowd going along with The Republicans being purchased by Anonymous Fat Cats?

Carl Rove and The Chamber Of Commerce are accepting huge sums of money from Anonymous Fat Cats, to be used to elect Republicans.
Clearly The Republicans have agreed to let The Robber Barons give the orders, once the Republicans are back in the majority.

Posted by: Liam-still | October 12, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Yup. this is all the Democrats have. A blatant attempt to distract people from the recent jobs reports and the overall sorry state of the economy.

Anybody else see the ABC poll about anger in America? Interesting stuff if you're a poll buff.

Axelrod is grasping at straws here. Poor boy.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | October 12, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

""The whole point of disclosure is that you don't really know whether people are complying with the rules unless you know what they're doing," he said. "Do any of the fact checkers have access to the fund that the chamber is using to pay for its 75 million in political activity? If they don't, it seems to me they're directing their ire in the wrong direction."

The mainstream press simply doesn't function as a public interest vehicle any longer. It is yet another corporatized asset with little interest in investigating and reporting real problems. It's all infotainment now. These news folks should be ashamed. Where is the institutional pride?

Posted by: wbgonne | October 12, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Axelrod and Obama have NOTHING

This discussion is getting silly.

.

Posted by: SaveTheRainforest | October 12, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Rove, Gillespie and others wouldn't be setting out so vigorously on damage control if they weren't anxious that this story hurts them and their electoral hopes.
---------------------------
If there is nothing there, the Republicans can sit on this story until the precise right moment, and then disclose their domestic donors. Right?

Posted by: 12BarBlues | October 12, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

I ought to add to that previous post.

Obviously, a key element to this story's political dynamic is that it focuses attention on the big money control of US politics. As such, it risks a 'populist' uprising against such control by the wealthy elites.

Part of the strategic rationale behind establishing, organizing and promoting the Tea Party narrative was to capture such populist sentiment (a traditional part of US politics) and re-direct the attention and anger of it away from the wealthy, corporate, Wall Street element and towards other targets who aren't influential (ie, university professors, atheists, etc).

This trick has been part of US politics for a long time but in the current situation (downturn, post Bush) a rather more acutely targeted and organized effort to hijack populism was necessary.

Posted by: bernielatham | October 12, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

In A Nutshell:

The Wall St. Big Casino Bank Operators, who brought us The Great Economic Crash of 2008, are trying to purchase this years elections, and re-install Their Republican Lap Dogs.

Posted by: Liam-still | October 12, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

wbgonne:

Did you see the amounts that OBAMA spent in 2008 from undisclosed donors (see links on prior thread)?!

Posted by: JakeD2 | October 12, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Does any Republican here want full disclosure of campaign contributions?

Does any Republican here want to know exactly who is funding candidates from both parties?

Or do you prefer NOT to know?

Posted by: Ethan2010 | October 12, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

he American Voters deserve to be informed about who is actually funding Karl Rove, and The Chamber of Commerce's campaign to elect only Republicans, and why those Concealed Fat Cats feel so confident, that The Republicans will deliver for them.

It may no longer be illegal, thanks to the coup against one person one vote, pulled off by the Gang Of Five Right Wing Supreme Court Activists; but it sure the hell is not Government Of The People, By The People, either.

Posted by: Liam-still | October 12, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Even Axelrod isn't saying this is illegal.

Money is fungible. If I were the Chamber and I had 200,000 cash, 150,000 from domestic sources and 50,000 from foreign sources, I could use the 50K to pay bills and sink 150K into issue ads. As far as foreign funds go, that is the issue.

To me the bigger issue is the lack of disclosure on domestic donors.

Posted by: PaciolisRevenge | October 12, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

I guess the Dems have officially given up on the 2010 midterms and now they are just looking for their excuse...

This angle might 'work' for the WH but we all know it's pure BS. Hope and change my a$$.

Posted by: sbj3 | October 12, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

SBJ, want to give a shot at answering my questions at 5:32 PM?

Any other Republican/conservative want to answer my questions?

Posted by: Ethan2010 | October 12, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

I have no evidence that David Axelrod did not murder Jimmy Hoffa.

Posted by: Bobisright | October 12, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Sinister Forces are funding Karl Rove and The Chamber Of Commerce, in order to Install The Republicans as a Puppet Government.

Those Sinister Forces are all about destroying the American working class, and for sending all the good paying production jobs to foreign lands.

Anyone who votes for the candidates that those Sinister Forces are backing, will be voting to destroy The American Way Of Life.

Posted by: Liam-still | October 12, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

The Chamber of Commerce is quite plainly a GOP-operation just like Fox. Why don't companies who don't want to fund GOP propaganda activities quit?

BTW: Read this Classic Whine by COC's odious Tom Donahue:

http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/12/chamber-vows-to-ramp-up-political-activity/?partner=rss&emc=rss

The poor oppressed Plutocrats. Why is the world is the Chamber of Commerce a tax-exempt organization? It is a GOP/Big Business front group trying to use "voter education" programs -- propaganda much? -- to elect Republicans (oh, and selected Republicrats, let's not forget them),

Posted by: wbgonne | October 12, 2010 5:46 PM | Report abuse

@sbj - Worst thing I've seen you write in a while. The capacity in all of this to corrupt the functions of government are serious and the concerns were raised by many in an out of government prior to the CU case.

Posted by: bernielatham | October 12, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

@ethan: I'm not a Republican.

I am in favor of transparency - DISCLOSE act would not have accomplished that goal.

There's no doubt in my mind that if the Dems were able to outraise the GOP with these sorts of anonymous donations that they would not be complaining. It's hypocrisy of the highest degree. It's whining squared. Axelrod sounds like he is on his knees, hands clasped in front of him, tears in his eyes, begging - "This is all we've got! Pleeeease let us make these baseless accusations without fact checking us!"

Posted by: sbj3 | October 12, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

SBJ, I didn't ask about transparency.

Do you support FULL DISCLOSURE of campaign contributions?

"There's no doubt in my mind that if the Dems were able to outraise..."

How do you square that with the fact that Democrats have been pushing for rigorous campaign finance reform for a decade at least only to be opposed by the GOP?

Posted by: Ethan2010 | October 12, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

@bernie: Are you actually defending the WH McCarthy tactics in use here?

You?

Posted by: sbj3 | October 12, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

SBJ always claims that he is not a Republican, but he sends donations to Sharron Angle's campaign. She is a Republican nominee.

SBJ voted for George W. Bush, and also for McCain/Palin. But SBJ says he is not a Republican. A Distinction without a difference is what SBJ keeps trying to promulgate.

He

Posted by: Liam-still | October 12, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

No need to bring up Sen. McCarthy (who could not have dreamed of the power being abused by Obama -- SaveTheRainforest is right -- Obama is Nixon). Did you know that McCarthy was actually right about a lot of the people he accused (unlike Axelrod)?

Posted by: JakeD2 | October 12, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Who are the Sinister Forces who are Hiding Behind Karl Rove and The Chamber Of Commerce? The voters deserve to know who is trying to buy the elections, and install their own Puppet Government.

Posted by: Liam-still | October 12, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Where would the Democrats be in this election cycle if CU had been ruled in their favor?

Would these "shadowy" propaganda groups (that one's for you Bernie) not be spending money? Was McCain-Feingold the only thing keeping the Democratic party in power? And now with this ruling, all is lost?

Would unemployment be lower than 9.6%? Would economic growth be higher than what it is right now? Would Obamacare be lauded not avoided? Would the Porkulus have been a success instead of a failure?

Really?

Posted by: TrollMcWingnut | October 12, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

sbj3:

Are you a "he" or a "she"?

Posted by: JakeD2 | October 12, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

David Axelrod was "pounded" on Face the Nation this past Sunday:

SCHIEFFER: Now I want to ask you about that because the New York Times looked into
the Chamber specifically and said the Chamber really isn’t putting foreign money into the campaign. That it does charge its foreign affiliates dues that bring in less than $100,000 a year. A lot of organizations including Labor Unions do that. But the Chamber has an annual budget of $200 million and it says, along with that, it keeps these foreign dues separate. They do spend heavily in politics, $25 million so far.
They expect to spend another $50 million. But this part about foreign money, that appears to be peanuts, Mister Axelrod, I mean, do you have any evidence that it’s anything other than peanuts?

AXELROD: Well, do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob? The fact is that the
Chamber has asserted that but they won’t release any information about where their campaign money is coming from. And that’s at the core of the problem here. What we’ve seen in part because of a loophole that the Supreme Court allowed earlier this year, we now see tens of millions of dollars being spent by the Chamber and a number of organizations some of which
just cropped up. Ed Gillespie and Karl Rove won-- run one of them. Tens of millions of dollars from undisclosed donors under benign names like the American Crossroads fund. And they’re--
and they’re spending heavily in all of these elections. And one race in Colorado, there-- there are six different organizations running negative ads against the Democratic senator there, Michael Bennett. And no one knows where the money is coming from. So I guess, my question
back to you and for your next guess is-- guest is, why not simply disclose where this money is coming from? And then all of these questions will be answered.

SCHIEFFER: Well, that will certainly be fine with me. But I want to go back to this thing about the Chamber of Commerce. If they’re only taking in $100,000 a
year--

AXELROD (overlapping): If they are.

SCHIEFFER: But you-- you question that. You say they may--

AXELROD (overlapping): Well, I don’t know. No one knows, Bob. The point is you-- they can-- I can assert anything I want. But you have as a good journalist you’d ask me, well, how do we know that’s true? Do you have documentation to prove that? If the Chamber opens up its books and says here’s where our political money is coming from, here are the million dollar, two
million or three million dollar contributions we’ve gotten from this company or that industry, then
we’ll know. But until they do that, all we have is their assertion.

SCHIEFFER: Do you -- I guess I would put it this way. If the only charge, three
weeks from the election that the Democrats can make is that there’s somehow, this may or may not be, foreign money coming into the campaign, is that the best you can do?

Posted by: JakeD2 | October 12, 2010 6:13 PM | Report abuse

@JakeD2
Gee Jake, did you happen to notice that John McCain had a higher percentage of undisclosed contributions than Obama?

Posted by: DinOH | October 12, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

America; Vote Against The American Chamber Of Con Artists. They are a front for Sinister Fat Cats, who wish to keep sending our good paying jobs to foreign lands.

Posted by: Liam-still | October 12, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

@Greg

Thank you for continuing to shine light on the side of this debate that a vast majority of the media will continue to ignore - the total fabrications and ludicrous false equivalencies coming from those defending the corporate theft of our democracy.

It's a real shame that major news orgs are so terrible at fact-checking the vitriol and lies that the right-wing spews on a second by second basis.

Maybe if the likes of Chuck Todd, Wolf Blitzer, and George Stephanopoulos did more than worry about sitting at the cool kids table in the DC Media lunchroom...we could avoid things like this.

Seriously, eff them.

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | October 12, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Obama's campaign did NOT disclose where "all" of his donations came from either. Are you all upset about that too??

Incomplete $15,611,429 (3.7%)

No Disclosure $25,289,671 (6.0%)

http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/summary.php?cycle=2008&cid=n00009638

When is Al Franken going to send a letter to the FEC demnding an investigation into Obama's campaign? Are you guys really claiming that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce got more than $25 million from foreign sources? None other than the NYT and Bob FREAKING Schieffer said it was less than $100,000. So, why no outcry about Obama's campaign?

In fact, on top of the amounts Obama's campaign actually spent, they ended up RETURNING $5,661,816 in campaign donations (some of those were from questionable or outright FOREIGN SOURCES). In addition, lots of those donations above were UNDER $200 which carry no disclosure requirements. You add that all up and it's more than $103 million from Obama, compared to less than $100,000 from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Using that same link I gave, above, you can see for yourself that up to $103,353,467 (27%) in donations to Obama were "Uncoded" so we may never find out how many of those were proper.

While OpenSecrets.org ("the Center") makes every effort to assign an industry or interest group code to every contribution of $200 or more, it's not always possible to do that. PAC contributions are virtually 100% identified, but many individual contributions simply cannot be categorized. The charts I've linked to show how much of the member's contributions have been successfully coded by the Center, and how many remain unclassified.

Here are the biggest categories of unknown contributions:

Those with no information about the donor's occupation or employer, or information so vague - like "businessman" or "self-employed" - that no code can be applied.

Homemakers, students and others with no direct income, when they can't be connected with the family income-earner. (Where the wage-earner is known, their category code is applied to all non-income-earners within the family).

Contributions where the employer is listed, but the Center wasn't able to categorize it. Though we try, we can't always identify the economic interest of every employer listed by donors. The Center uses a variety of reference materials that list companies by "Standard Industrial Codes," but due to limitations of time and staff resources, we can't get to them all. Others may not be listed in any phone books, business guides, or other resources, so their economic interest remains unknown.

Over the years, the Center has usually been able to identify about 99% of PAC contributions and about 65-70% of individual contributions for most candidates - at least by the end of the election cycle. We're always trying to improve those ratios, but the faster the money rolls in, the harder it is to keep on top of it. Please bear with them : )

Posted by: JakeD2 | October 12, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

DinOH:

We're not talking about McCain, and YOUR side is the one insisting that all donations be disclosed.

TheBBQChickenMadness:

I hope you saw the links to OpenSecrets.org (since you thought that Obama had disclosed EVERY donation he receieved ; )

Posted by: JakeD2 | October 12, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

When Obsma had a chance to be a part of a campaign finance system that worked, Obama went back on his word and refused to be a part of Campaign Finance Reform


That is why Obama constantly makes a joke out of himself


You don't do what Obama did in 2008 and then talk like this. It is conduct unbecoming a leader. Conduct which is improper for a leader in the US

Posted by: Classic777 | October 12, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

BBQ

Clearly get ALL the money out of politics. Disclosure will do little towards the real problem which is undue influence of money


Ban ALL the money with a Constituonal Amendment

Posted by: Classic777 | October 12, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Does any Republican here want full disclosure of campaign contributions?

Does any Republican here want to know exactly who is funding candidates from both parties?

Or do you prefer NOT to know?

Posted by: Ethan2010
_______________________________

Why would it matter? If the message is the message, why not attack it, instead of the person that paid for it?

Posted by: Bailers | October 12, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Sinister Big Money is using Karl Rove and The Chamber Of Con Artists, as their beards, in order to put their puppet government in place, without ever having to reveal who they really are.

Americans; vote for all candidates that Karl Rove's Crossroads Groups, and The American Chamber Of Con Artists oppose.

If they will not treat you like real Americans, and revel the names of their Robber Baron backers, then you must reject them.

Vote against The Chamber Of Con Artists, because they want to send all the good paying production jobs to China, and other cheap labor countries.

Posted by: Liam-still | October 12, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Great work JournoLista!

I agree with you and your boss Axelrod, let's have full disclosure:

http://joshuapundit.blogspot.com/2010/10/full-disclosure-sure-why-not.html

Can't wait.

Posted by: JoshuaPundit | October 12, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

All, Happy Hour Roundup posted:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/10/happy_hour_roundup_107.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | October 12, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Great idea, JoshuaPundit! Full disclosure by Ezra Klein.

Posted by: clawrence12 | October 12, 2010 7:52 PM | Report abuse

sbj asked "@bernie: Are you actually defending the WH McCarthy tactics in use here?

You?"

McCarthy? What on earth is analogous here?

The CU decision and the enormous number of dollars coming into the electoral process and the lack of transparency are each serious dangers to a true democratic system. My personal notion is that anyone or any entity who does not protest each of these features and work to overturn them until they are overturned is acting in a functionally seditious manner whether they understand that or not.

The day that SC decision came down, I wrote here, "Now you guys are f*cked". What I saw coming down the pike has only just begun this cycle. If the situation stays as is, true representative democracy will become a sham simply as a consequence of how money in these amounts, controlled by a single sector of the nation who already are the most powerful and influential sector, and who act so as to maximize THEIR interests alone, will corrupt.

It's quite uncertain whether your society will remain stable. It might. It's possible that even where citizens no longer have any real influence in the system there will be sufficient affluence that citizens don't rise up in a serious manner. But if the middle and lower classes - that is, everyone but the very well-off - continue to head towards economic insecurity, then god knows what might evolve.

Your nation - your constitution - is an experiment. A very good one, in my estimation. But there are no guarantees that this experiment will continue to succeed.

Posted by: bernielatham | October 12, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

"McCarthy? What on earth is analogous here?"

How disingenuous can you get?

Sheesh.

Posted by: sbj3 | October 12, 2010 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Tell it to the Community Organizer who bought the last election with unaccounted for funds and no passport or birth certificate

Posted by: Senior1 | October 13, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Senior1:

To be fair, Obama DOES have an official State Department passport (but that does not clarify whether he was born in Kenya) and the State of Hawaii CLAIMS to still have his original "vital records". I'm simply asking to see that : )

Posted by: JakeD2 | October 13, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Obama received Millions of Dollars in "Undisclosed" Donations, some from
prepaid gift cards, and from overseas donations...these should also be investigated.
Union donations should also be transparent.
There are many union workers who aren't Democrat... how is this fair to them??

Posted by: ohioan | October 13, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

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