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PolitiFact: Foreign money in election lacks direct link, despite Obama's claim

The statement

"Groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections."

Barack Obama, Oct. 7, in a speech

The ruling

Stumping for Democratic candidates, President Barack Obama has warned that foreign money may be bankrolling attack ads. Here's what the president said at a rally on behalf of Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley:

"Just this week, we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. 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."

On ABC's This Week, George Will connected the dots: "He's talking about the (U.S.) Chamber of Commerce, which does indeed receive dues from foreign entities that are associated with American business, just as the AFL-CIO receives dues from foreign entities associated with it."

Here, we examine Obama's claim about the chamber, which has vowed to spend more than $50 million nationwide.

Federal law prohibits foreign corporations from "directly or indirectly" making donations "in connection with a Federal, State, or local election," to a political party committee or "for an electioneering communication." But Obama has warned that a Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission case opened the floodgates for such donations.

The White House confirmed Obama was talking about the U.S. chamber, referring to a posting on ThinkProgress, a blog, which says the chamber has "spearheaded an effort to raise money from foreign corporations,'' with foreign money commingled with the funds used to pay for attack ads.

Chamber officials acknowledged they have foreign affiliates and receive foreign money. But they maintain that all foreign money is properly segregated from money used for political activity. They are not legally required to disclose donors, and don't.

''There's no way to check any of it. As it is, they just have one big pie, and no one knows where it all goes," said David G. Vance of the Campaign Legal Center.

So far, though, no one has offered any evidence that the chamber is violating the law.

The president is technically correct when he says the Chamber of Commerce "takes in money from foreign corporations. … So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections." But we think that statement suggests foreign money is, for sure, being used to for attack ads. And Obama has offered no evidence that it has. So we rule his statement Half True.

Edited for print. For more, go to

PolitiFact: Foreign money in election lacks direct link, despite Obama's claim 10/14/10 [Last modified: Thursday, October 14, 2010 9:19pm]
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