POLITICS: Campaigns

Liberal think tanks, the Obama campaign and foreign money

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney,Barack Obama,Campaign Finance,Campaigns

You may recall the run-up to the 2010 elections, when President Obama turned to a strange conspiracy theory for his primary campaign point: that foreign companies were bankrolling the GOP through the Chamber of Commerce.

It appears they’re even taking secret foreign money to influence our elections. It’s incredible, Republicans benefiting from secret foreign money: “It’s incredible, Republicans benefiting from secret foreign money,” one ad said. “Tell the Bush crowd and the Chamber of Commerce — stop stealing our democracy.”

The source of that attack, as the New Times reported back then, was a blog post by the Center for American Progress — which had created the basis of Obama’s misleading attacks on McCain in 2008.

This week, an excellent article in the liberal The Nation magazine reports that at that very same time — 2010 — CAP was actually taking foreign money and then pushing the interests of foreign corporations.

Foreign governments and business entities can also join the Business Alliance, whose membership list includes the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office—which functions as Taiwan’s embassy in Washington and retains many lobbyists, including former Oklahoma Republican Senator Don Nickles and former Missouri Democratic Representative Richard Gephardt—and the Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey (TUSKON)….

A former CAP staffer told me that TUSKON had “amazing access” and “could call anyone in the government and get us a meeting or interview.” As a result of the Turkish group’s support, CAP was “totally in the tank for them,” this source said.

CAP also presses for closer ties between the US and Turkish governments, just as Ankara’s lobbyists do. Last year, CAP hosted an event featuring Commerce Secretary John Bryson, who spoke on his “vision for deepening even further the US-Turkish commercial relationship.” Two years earlier, Podesta gave the keynote address at a TUSKON conference in Istanbul. In his speech—titled “The Unique Importance of the Turkish-American Relationship”—he praised CAP senior fellow Michael Werz for his work on “strengthening the US-Turkey relationship.” He also pointedly noted that Werz’s predecessor as CAP’s Turkey expert, Spencer Boyer, had left the think tank to become the Obama administration’s deputy assistant secretary for European affairs.

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