Obama backs off charge that foreign money is funding Chamber ads

President Obama on Sunday stepped back from categorical charges he made earlier this week that foreign money was funding conservative TV campaign ads, telling a rally in Philadelphia only that such a scenario was possible.

The softening of Obama’s language reflects the impact of a Saturday report on the issue by the New York Times, which concluded that charges originally made by a blog run by a Democratic-aligned think tank were baseless.

On Thursday, at a rally at Bowie State University in Maryland, Obama said this: “Just this week, we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations.”

But on Sunday, speaking to several thousand supporters in Philadelphia, he said that donors to groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce “could even be foreign-owned corporations.”

“You don’t know because they don’t have to disclose,” Obama said.

A White House official told Politico’s Mike Allen: “There is no recalibration at all.”

But Obama’s backtracking on the issue follows several days of intense debate on the subject, following the posting Tuesday of the charges at ThinkProgress.org, the blog that is operated under the umbrella of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank run by John Podesta, who oversaw Obama’s transition team in the winter of 2008.

White House officials, who took up the charges and ran with them for a few days, admitted Saturday to the New York Times that they had no evidence of foreign money being used by the Chamber for any of its estimated $75 million in ads this cycle.

“No one knows,” said top Obama adviser David Axelrod, appearing Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“If the chamber opens up its books and says here’s where our political money is coming from, here are the million dollar, two or three million dollar contributions we’ve gotten from this company or that industry, then we’ll know,” Axelrod said. “But until they do that, all we have is their assertion.”

Bob Schieffer, the host of the show, expressed incredulity.

“If the only charge three weeks into the election that the Democrats can make is that somehow this may or may not be foreign money coming into the campaign, is that the best you can do?” Schieffer asked.

ThinkProgress maintains that the charge is still valid. They say that there are several sources of foreign money that come into the Chamber.

Not every Democrat was on the same page as the president. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, sent out a fundraising e-mail Sunday that deemed the use of foreign funds in Republican TV ads to be a certainty.

“The Republicans are now able to use secretive outside groups to pool the unlimited resources of big banks, big oil companies, and big health insurance companies into their campaign of attacks ads against Democrats,” Van Hollen said in the e-mail. “Its recently come to light that some of these organizations received significant funds from foreign-controlled interests.”

During Obama’s speech in Philadelphia, he used many of the same talking points and anecdotes that have become fixtures in his remarks at fundraisers and rallies over the last three months. But he was more partisan and combative in tone than normal, and beseeched the crowd of loyal supporters not to stay home on Nov. 2.

“They’re saying the other party’s supporters are more enthusiastic, more excited. They say all y’all are going to stay home. You might not come out like you did in 2008. They say you might not care as much. They think, oh, well, Obama’s name is not on the ballot, maybe they’re not going to turn out,” Obama said.

“I think the pundits are wrong. I think we’re going to win, but you got to prove them wrong,” he said.

Obama was relentless in pounding the Republicans, saying they have “spent the last 20 months saying no.”

He characterized the House Republicans “Pledge to America” as structured around extending the Bush tax cuts for families making $250,000 or more. But he characterized the GOP position, which favors extending cuts for all tax brackets, to make it sound as if they wanted only to extend cuts for top earners.

“The centerpiece of the pledge is a $700 billion tax cut that would only go to the top two percent, the wealthiest two percent of Americans,” Obama said.

“Ninety-eight percent of you would not get this tax cut.”

A White House spokesman said the president’s facts were accurate.

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  • dahni

    But, but…wait…I can prove that I no longer believe the World is flat. So there! Axelrod, Axelrod…you poor pathetic puppet!

  • dahni

    And we believe Obama when? Next Holder will file criminal charges against all donors to the Republican Party, and bring in the 11 Foreign Countries to join the lawsuit aginst the US Chamber of Commerce. Obama is following the same path as did his friend, Bill Ayers. Ayers couldn’t logically convince others that his ideas were superior and he should be in charge. so he started blowing up things and people. Same direction for Obama and his Czars.

  • mikesaline

    Obama took in more illegal campaign money than anyone in the history of the US presidency. And what did the mainstream media say about it? Nothing. Obama was too black to fail and that fact was far more important than any illegalities, shady past connections, radical current friends, and worst, the total lack of skills, qualifications, and experience for such a big job.

    The media put our nation at risk to make a PC point. WE WILL ALL pay the price for such foolishness and immaturity on their behalf. Now, the pendulum will swing the other way and many, many democrats are going to be swept out to the political wilderness. And who will they blame? Obama? The media? Nope. The elitist arrogant snobs who run the democrat party and who infest our universities and mainstream media organs will blame… you guessed it… THE PEOPLE.

    “We didn’t deserve the democrats” will be a typical line of crap from them. Mark my words.

  • sunnyr

    The lying POS got caught in his lie. He is a dispicable excuse for a human being and brings disgrace to the office of President. Counting the days until 2012!!

    NEW YORK TIMES: Obama’s “foreign money” claims are bogus. They’re also pretty rich, considering how his 2008 campaign handled foreign credit cards. From that National Journal story: “The lack of a computerized address-verification system would allow the Obama campaign’s computers to accept online donations from U.S. citizens above legal limits, and to accept donations from foreigners who are barred by law from contributing at all.” Perhaps its time to remind people of that issue again. Oh, wait, I just did!

    Here’s more on that from 2008: “A breakdown of controls has enabled foreign and other unaccountable funds to pour into the Obama campaign — and it’s not an accident.”

    Plus, from the Washington Post: Obama Accepting Untraceable Donations. “Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is allowing donors to use largely untraceable prepaid credit cards that could potentially be used to evade limits on how much an individual is legally allowed to give or to mask a contributor’s identity, campaign officials confirmed. Faced with a huge influx of donations over the Internet, the campaign has also chosen not to use basic security measures to prevent potentially illegal or anonymous contributions from flowing into its accounts, aides acknowledged.”

  • tjonnyc

    Taking this in light of the story about Obama’s 2008 campaign website accepting donations from other countries (and entire list, at least someone had the sense to remove North Korea) – this is even more hilarious.

    So it was OK for Obama to receive campaign contributions from overseas, with absolutely no verification besides a checkbox, but all of a sudden his administration is accusing the Chamber of doing the same?

    I’d say this is a case of pot calling the kettle black, but “they” will call me a racist. Eh… well, you know what… screw’ em. This IS a case of pot calling the kettle black.

  • des1

    Well, this story is in serious need of an update, since Megyn Kelly just announced that the White House is not backing off and is instead aggressively pushing forward with charging the Chamber and other groups of accepting foreign money.

    Once again, Captain Transparency says one thing, then does another.