Will WMC Refuse Foreign Attack Funds From U.S. Chamber of Commerce?

Big Business's National Affiliate Using Foreign Contributions to Attack Candidates; WMC Begins Buying Airtime

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MADISON, Wis. — With recent revelations the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is using contributions from foreign businesses to fund its partisan political attacks, One Wisconsin Now is calling on the U.S. Chamber’s state affiliate, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), to detail its own internal controls that prevent foreign funds from being used in attacks it levies against political candidates in Wisconsin.

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is using foreign money in political attacks to elect candidates who support allowing business to outsource our jobs overseas,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. “Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce owes the people of Wisconsin a guarantee its paid political attacks are not funded with foreign cash.”

WMC has now begun reserving and making inquiries about television time in a number of Wisconsin media markets, including Milwaukee, Eau Claire, La Crosse and Green Bay. Estimates are that buys in the Milwaukee market alone could top $500,000 for ad time.

A recent investigation by ThinkProgress showed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is funding its paid political attacks out of the organization’s general account. This account solicits and is financed with funding from foreign businesses, including over $300,000 from businesses in Bahrain and India, alone. Legal experts contacted by ThinkProgress concluded the U.S. Chamber was “likely skirting” campaign finance law barring foreign corporations in U.S. elections. [ThinkProgress; U.S. Chamber Watch]

The U.S. Chamber has pledged to spend $75 million to help Republicans retake control of Congress, including a television campaign that has launched against incumbent Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold. The U.S. Chamber’s activities related to foreign financial interests have drawn the attention of regulators, watchdogs and elected officials.

As the state’s U.S. Chamber affiliate, WMC has been a leading player in issue campaigns to support pro-corporate candidates in Wisconsin. Details about prior spending and ad campaigns by WMC are available at One Wisconsin Now’s www.WMCWatch.org.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce financial support for state affiliate attack ad campaigns, like those of WMC, was raised by reporters at Stateline.org in 2006 about Attorneys’ General races. Stateline.org wrote:

In addition, powerful business interests backing Republican attorneys general through groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) claim to have spent an estimated $10 million to $15 million each in hopes of expanding their hold on attorney general seats. The exact amount cannot be verified because local chambers of commerce and other groups that receive donations from these organizations do not have to report it. [Stateline.org, 11/8/06]

WMC spent a record-setting $2.5 million to support Republican JB Van Hollen and attacking his Democratic opponent Kathleen Falk. [Wisconsin Democracy Campaign]

“The same week we find out about the foreign money financing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce attack ads, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce starts buying hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars in airtime to flood Wisconsin’s airwaves with attack ads,” said Ross. “And if these ads are financed with foreign cash from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, we deserve to know.”

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One Wisconsin Now specializes in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.