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Think Progress has released this hard-hitting story, examining the millions that the US Chamber of Commerce is spending on election to attack Democratic candidates. This money, TP finds, is likely coming in part from foreign donors in violation of campaign finance laws.

The largest attack campaign against Democrats this fall is being waged by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a trade association organized as a 501(c)(6) that can raise and spend unlimited funds without ever disclosing any of its donors. The Chamber has promised to spend an unprecedented $75 million to defeat candidates like Jack Conway, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jerry Brown, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), and Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA). As of Sept. 15th, the Chamber had aired more than 8,000 ads on behalf of GOP Senate candidates alone, according to a study from the Wesleyan Media Project. The Chamber’s spending has dwarfed every other issue group and most political party candidate committee spending. A ThinkProgress investigation has found that the Chamber funds its political attack campaign out of its general account, which solicits foreign funding. And while the Chamber will likely assert it has internal controls, foreign money is fungible, permitting the Chamber to run its unprecedented attack campaign. According to legal experts consulted by ThinkProgress, the Chamber is likely skirting longstanding campaign finance law that bans the involvement of foreign corporations in American elections....

Here’s how it works. Regular dues from American firms to the Chamber can range from $500 to $300,000 or more, depending on their size and industry, and can be used for any purpose deemed necessary by the Chamber leadership. For example, the health insurance giant Aetna has reported that it paid $100,000 in annual dues to the Chamber in the past. But for specific advocacy or advertising campaigns, corporations can hide behind the label of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and give additional money. Last year, alongside their regular dues, health insurance companies like Aetna secretly funneled up to $20 million to the Chamber for attack ads aimed at killing health reform (publicly, health insurance executives claimed they supported reform). Last week, Politico reported that News Corporation, the parent company of Fox News, gave an extra $1 million to the Chamber for its election season attack campaign.

The Chamber denies that foreign cash is going into campaigns, saying "We have a system in place" to prevent foreign funding for the Chamber's "political activities," but does not deny that the Chamber's 501(c)(6) organization running attack ads receives foreign funds.

MoveOn has requested that the DOJ investigate and DCCC chair Chris Van Hollen appeared on MSNBC, blasting the Chamber and calling for more disclosure. There's nothing that can happen in Congress between now and the election. The Justice Department should step in, regardless of the inevitable backlash that would come from Republicans crying foul.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue Oct 05, 2010 at 06:40 PM PDT.

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