ADVISORY: Sen. Franken & ThinkProgress on Secret Money and Politics

Washington, D.C. — Tomorrow, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) will join Faiz Shakir, Editor of ThinkProgress.org and Lee Fang, Researcher at  ThinkProgress.org on a conference call at 1:30 P.M. EST to discuss ThinkProgress’ recent report alleging that foreign corporations may be funding efforts by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to influence elections in this country. The report indicates that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is funding its political attack campaign out of its general account—one that solicits money from foreign corporations and other entities. In response to those troubling findings, Senator Al Franken called on the Federal Election Commission to investigate these allegations and to ensure that institutions like the Chamber, a 501(c) 6 organization, is not using funds from foreign agents in to its political activities.

Senator Franken is a known champion of clean, transparent elections and was a co-sponsor of the DISCLOSE  Act, which would require greater disclosure of funding sources for independent groups running political advertisements.

The Chamber has promised to spend $75 million dollars this election cycle, dwarfing every other issue group and most political party candidate committee spending. Here is a quick run down from the ThinkProgress investiation of potentially commingled offshore funds:

  • BAHRAIN – The “U.S.-Bahrain Business Council,” or USBBC, is an office of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 501(c)(6) trade association. Many of the USBBC’s board members are Bahrainian, including Aluminum Bahrain, Midal Cables, the Nass Group, the Bahrain Petroleum Company (state-owned), Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company, and First Leasing Bank. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce raises more than $100,000 a year in money from foreign businesses through its operation in Bahrain. Notably, the membership form provided by the USBBC directs applicants to send or wire their money directly to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
  • INDIA – Similarly in India, dozens of Indian businesses, including some of India’s largest corporations like the State Bank of India (state-run) and ICICI Bank, are members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce through the USIBC. Annual membership dues range from $7,500 to $15,000 or more and the money is given directly into the Chamber’s 501(c)(6) bank account. Like the USBBC, the USIBC generates more than $200,000 a year in dues for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from foreign businesses.
  • ABU DHABI – Many foreign “AmChams” or Business Councils operate outside the direct sphere of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce but nonetheless send dues money back to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Some foreign chambers, like the Abu Dhabi AmCham, which includes American firms and Esnaad, a subsidiary of the state-run Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, claims that it is a “dues paying member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and part of the global network of American Chambers of Commerce.”
  • RUSSIA – The relationship between the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce here is opaque. This might be because many of the dues-paying members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia are Russian state-run companies, like VTB Bank, and controlled by the Russian government. Asked by ThinkProgress if the Russian Chambers pay dues back to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Ksenia Forsheneva, the membership development manager at the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, replied, “Unfortunately the information that you require is closed for the public.”

Please join the Center for American Progress Action Fund tomorrow.

Who:

Senator Al Franken (D-MN)

Faiz Shakir, Editor, ThinkProgress.org

Lee Fang, Researcher, ThinkProgress.org

What: Media conference call to discuss secret money and politics.

When: Thursday, October 7, 2010 at 1:30 p.m. EST

Call info: ( 877 ) 210 – 8943

Conference ID: 16738967

To listen to press call, click here.

**Please note, this call will be recorded. By participating in the call, you consent to be recorded.**

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