The long-simmering feud between Democrats and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has erupted into a full-scale war.
The chamber, one of Washington’s most influential lobbying groups, emerged from the background of the midterm elections this week, spending millions of dollars on ads to help Republicans and fending off Democratic allegations that the effort may include money collected from foreign firms.
The chamber told the Federal Election Commission that it spent $10.5 million in about 30 House and Senate races, an effort that primarily helps Republicans. The disclosure marks the opening of the floodgates for the business group, which has spent $25 million since the primaries and has vowed to spend up to three times that much by Election Day.
Democrats have responded by attacking the chamber as part of a shadowy coalition of conservative groups that is spending tens of millions on political ads without having to reveal its donors. The party and President Obama have also seized on allegations from a liberal think tank that money from overseas chamber affiliates may be polluting the U.S. election process – a charge the business group adamantly denies.
“Just this week, we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations,” Obama said at a Thursday rally for Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. “So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections, and they won’t tell you where the money for their ads comes from.”
R. Bruce Josten, the chamber’s executive vice president for government affairs, said in an interview Friday that the group “has never and will never” use dues collected from overseas business councils, known as “AmChams,” for U.S. political activities. He said the chamber is the victim of “a smear campaign” orchestrated with the involvement of the White House.