The President Is Just Asking Questions


My column tomorrow is about President Obama's recent attacks on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for 1) collecting money from foreign affiliates (totaling about 0.05 percent of its budget) and 2) sponsoring ads that criticize Democrats. White House Counsel Bob Bauer insists the president did not mean to suggest any connection between those two points, even though he repeatedly put them in the same sentence, since that would amount to accusing the group of violating the federal ban on election-related spending by foreign nationals. Obama admits he has no evidence to support that charge. But neither does he have any evidence to refute it! Which, according to presidential adviser David Axelrod, is the whole point—i.e., the president feels no compunction about making shit up without full disclosure, who can say whether the Chamber of Commerce is violating the law? What is it trying to hide? Yesterday ABC Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper, whose terrier-like tenacity puts his allegedly dogged predecessor Sam Donaldson to shame, pressed Axelrod on this line of innuendo reasoning:

TAPPER: So the Chamber says no foreign money is paying for any of their political activities.

AXELROD: And I guess my answer to the Chamber is just disclose where your money is coming from and that will end all the questions….

TAPPER: Their answer would be why should they disclose. No one's disclosing.

AXELROD: Right, and they have a point there. We tried to pass a law in the Congress—every Democrat in the Senate voted for it, every Republican in the Senate voted against it—that said everyone has to disclose….The Republicans blocked that bill, and the question to them and their allies is: what are they hiding that they don't want the American people to see?

TAPPER: But you're asking the Chamber to prove a negative. "Prove that you're not doing such and such accusation."

AXELROD: It's not proving a negative, Jake, because all you have to do to clear up the questions is reveal who your donors are from….

TAPPER: But there's a difference between the Chamber and some of these other organizations, right? The Chamber—we know what it stands for, we know basically the money is coming from big business  and corporations. These other groups…they have names like "Americans For Prosperity," [and] we don't know what they stand for or who's behind it.  But the Chamber is different, isn't it?

AXELROD: Well, we certainly do know about the Chamber, that they have foreign affiliates and they do raise money for the organization that way….

TAPPER: But what do you say to people who argue you are demonizing an organization for a charge that nobody knows if it's true or not?

AXELROD: Well I'm not demonizing the Chamber of Commerce. I'm simply suggesting to them that they disclose the source of the $75 million that they are spending in campaigns and put to rest…the questions that…have been raised.

TAPPER: Isn't that like the whackjobs that tell the president he needs to show them his full long-form birth certificate so he can put to rest the questions that have been raised?

AXELROD: The president's birth certificate has been available to people.

TAPPER: The long form?

Axelrod conspicuously dodged that last question. What is he trying to hide?

More on the lopsided, blatantly partisan DISCLOSE Act, to which Axelrod refers in his second response, here.