Ed Gillespie. Karl Rove. Bob Schieffer. Associated Press. George Will. Politico. ABC. The list goes on and on with names and media outlets spinning the issue of foreign funds being injected into our elections as a trifling matter, unworthy of our attention.
It's not trifling; it's a major big deal, but I don't think anyone has done an especially good job of explaining it, so I'm going to give it my best shot.
All of the denials and debunkers seem to center around the Chamber of Commerce's insistence that AmCham funds just don't amount to much. Click any article above and you'll find Bruce Josten's vehement denial that AmCham funds are scrupulously segregated and separate from other funds. Yet they fail to mention money flowing in from the Business Councils, and what they ignore even more is that the Chamber of Commerce, by their own admission, can accept as much money as they want from any member - foreign or domestic -- without reporting, disclosing, or otherwise telling anyone about it.
In August of this year, before any news of foreign contributions came out, a Chamber of Commerce employee (and whistleblower) wrote a letter outlining how the Chamber handles donations in excess of annual dues:
According to a letter from a U.S. Chamber of Commerce employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, companies that give money to the Chamber are promised their donations will not be disclosed, even to the Government.
They are given specific instructions on how to circumvent campaign finance regulations. This is what Mr. Donohue uses to up the ante with companies so they will give more money. Mr. Donohue has given these same instructions to our lobbyists to pass on to companies... Mr. Donohue also promises companies that the Chamber's lawyers, lobbyists and public relations will provide a wall of protection for them in case they have any troubles with regulators or law enforcement officials, and he uses examples of past members who have been able to hide behind the Chamber.... It is a fact that the Chamber coordinates directly with the Republican Party on issues, ads, legislation, candidates and everything else. Steve Law is in daily contact with Mr. Donohue and he was chosen to lead the Karl Rove group American Crossroads so there would be that coordination. That group is the de facto Republican National Committee.
["I can say for certain that there is a vast amount of secrecy about what money comes in and what it is used for. I can say that there have been large cash transactions that have taken place that I do not believe have been ever placed in any accounting system. I also know that money meant for one thing has actually been redirected to another thing on orders from Mr. Donohue and without the knowledge of the company that gave the money. I also know that if there was an audit done of the Chamber's finances and cross referenced to those companies that gave money, there would be vast discrepancies between income and outlays."]
See that last bolded section there? That's why these foreign funds are a huge, major big deal. Here's a hypothetical to illustrate how the money could flow.