In an effort to limit the damage from what promises to be a political tsunami in November, President Obama and his surrogates are smearing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Republican candidates for accepting “secret foreign money,” according to a DNC ad, and contributions from “foreign-owned corporations,” according to the president.
This is nothing more than a tempest in a teapot—and one overflowing with a toxic mix of hypocrisy and cynicism—for lots of reasons. But here are just a few.
First, in the president’s smearing of the Chamber’s legitimate involvement in the political process and in his deriding of money from “the oil industry” and “the insurance industry” as “a threat to our democracy,” there is an implication that money in politics is inherently evil and that he somehow has transcended this sin.
We’ll address the latter in a moment, but on the matter of money in politics, it pays to recall that money and what it can buy have always played a role in U.S. politics.
In 1757, as he ran for a seat in the Virginia House of Burgesses, George Washington spent a small fortune on rum and whiskey. The book Money Matters estimates that he bought more than a quart of liquor per voter in that first campaign. He won, thanks in part to this special campaign expense. James Madison refused to follow Washington’s example in his bid for re-election to the same body. Perhaps predictably, he lost.
Money Matters also notes that long before the Constitution was ratified, individuals and political parties alike were using “money to purchase newspapers and other printed materials to publish their partisan writings.” The resulting clash of ideas produced such influential works as The Federalist Papers and The Anti-Federalist Papers, laying the groundwork for a political system controlled not by the government, but by the people and the candidates they supported. In many respects, it’s a system we have never abandoned.
Second, the president’s somber intonations that the “American people deserve to know who’s trying to sway their elections” carry no weight coming from a man who raised hundreds of millions from undisclosed donors. As Newsweek reported in October 2008, tens of thousands of dollars poured into the Obama campaign from “individuals” with names like “Doodad Pro” of Nunda, New York, and “Good Will” of Austin, Texas. Pamela Geller of the blog Atlas Shrugs reported on this earlier in the 2008 campaign season.
“Good Will,” Newsweek observed, “listed his employer as ‘Loving’ and his occupation as ‘You,’ while supplying as his address 1015 Norwood Park Boulevard, which is shared by the Austin nonprofit Goodwill Industries.” As for Obama-backer “Doodad Pro,” he/she/it listed no occupation and no employer. And his/her/its address was Lloyd and Lynn’s Liquor Store, which knew nothing about the donations.
How’s that for “secret” money?
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