President Obama, well on his way to a Carteresque small stature presidency, has been trumpeting a blog post that attacks groups supporting Republican candidates this fall – the US Chamber of Commerce and Crossroads GPS, founded by Karl Rove. The groups are criticized because they do not disclose their donors and may have illegal foreign money behind them.
This is not Obama’s first attack on campaign funding. Remember that he did his best to diminish the Supreme Court in the State of the Union address by criticizing the Citizens United decision allowing corporations to fund campaign speech directly (though not candidates, directly) as enabling ‘special interests’ and foreign influences.
But not even Obama’s usual defenders believe there is a smoking gun. The New York Times pooh-poohed his recent remarks as off-base:
[T]here is little evidence that what the chamber does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents.
[M]any groups are not required to disclose their donors.
I have long maintained that curbs on campaign financing are futile. Money influences politics as surely as water flows downhill, and it will work its way around whatever barriers are put in its way. Laws like McCain-Feingold are well-intentioned but will never work as intended. Still, they must be obeyed.
Obama has hardly set a good example of obeying the letter or spirit of campaign finance laws. I am reminded of his brazen flip-flop where he refused public financing in 2008, the first candidate to do so. It is well documented that his 2008 campaign lacked minimal controls such as asking for credit card addresses to prevent illegal foreign contributions.
It is clear that the Democrats are terrified by the magnitude of the defeat they are facing. Karl Rove has it just about right:
Rove said Sunday that the DNC ad effectively accused them all of a criminal violation of U.S. law — only without proof. “They have not one shred of evidence to back up that baseless lie. This is a desperate and I think disturbing trend by the president of the United States to tar his political adversaries with some kind of, you know, enemies list unrestrained by any facts or evidence whatsoever.”
Here’s the anomaly. The blog post that started the furor is from John Podesta’s Center for American Progress. According to Politico, that group does not disclose its donors. Perfectly legal and incredibly hypocritical.