R. Bruce Josten
(Photo: Chamber of Commerce)
Since the failure of Congress to pass the Disclose Act in the wake of the Supreme Court's
case, President Obama has been pondering how to obtain more transparency regarding secret corporate funding of election spending. One possibility: Issuing
an executive order requiring companies seeking government contracts to disclose all contributions of more than $5000 to groups that run political ads.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which ran a major ad campaign in 2010 with secret corporate money, is ferociously determined to keep who funds such election spending under wraps. And when the Chamber gets fierce, don't expect it to draw the line at legality, as ThinkProgress has revealed.
The latest jab in favor of opacity and against the executive order being floated by the White House comes from Chamber lobbyist R. Bruce Josten in an interview in The New York Times:
“We will fight it through all available means,” Mr. Josten said. In a reference to the White House’s battle to depose Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, he said, “To quote what they say every day on Libya, all options are on the table.” ...
A not so subtle association. But then when the Chamber says "all options are on the table" and "all available means," it's not mere hyperbole. All available means in the recent past include participating in the propaganda campaigns of the Koch brothers and sucking up contributions from foreign corporations for use in election campaigns. Such money must be kept separate from domestic funds, but the Federal Election Commission failed to look into whether the money was properly segregated. Hacked emails also recently revealed that the Chamber had enlisted three private security firms—HBGary Federal, Palantir, and Berico Technologies, known collectively as Team Themis—to create a disinformation campaign against progressive organizations, including unions, by smearing them with false documents, among other techniques.
According to one document prepared by Team Themis, the campaign included an entrapment project. The proposal called for first creating a “false document, perhaps highlighting periodical financial information,” to give to a progressive group opposing the Chamber, and then to subsequently expose the document as a fake to undermine the credibility of the Chamber’s opponents. In addition, the group proposed creating a “fake insider persona” to “generate communications” with Change to Win.
Fakery has long been a staple at the Chamber of Commerce. As Lee Fang at ThinkProgress points out:
...the White House’s disclosure rule threatens the entire existence of the Chamber. This is because the Chamber only exists to hide the identity of corporations seeking to fight nasty political battles without having their name or brand exposed. As the Wall Street Journal noted, the Chamber’s “most striking innovation has been to offer individual companies and industries the chance to use the chamber as a means of anonymously pursuing their own political ends.” The Chamber’s members include defense contractors, bailed out banks, and other donors likely to be affected by the government contractor campaign disclosure rule.
Whatever the mission statement on the wall at Chamber headquarters says in addition to profits over people, the organization's main objective at the moment seems to be burying Americans deep in disinformation. Anything that stands even slightly in the way of that, as the executive order on transparency would do, is bound to be included in that disinformation campaign. Nothing is more inimical to the Chamber's long-term goals than allowing rank-and-file Americans know who is behind so many of the lies of its members. Like the ones about climate change that keep the nation scurrying headlong down a dead-end path.
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