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Look who's been getting millions in secret foreign cash! Examiner Editorial

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Opinion,Editorial,Sierra Club,Campaign Finance,Climate Change,First Amendment,Global Warming,Dark money,David Vitter,Washington Examiner

Democratic talking heads – including David Axelrod, President Obama’s longtime political adviser – repeatedly took to the airwaves in 2010 accusing Republicans of funneling “secret foreign money” into their campaign coffers. The flimsy charge was based on the fact that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which was supporting several Republican candidates that year, has an international division that collects about $100,000 annually in dues from foreign members.

For months thereafter, recurring rumors of Republicans accepting millions of dollars in contributions from sinister foreign donors became the talk of left-wing fever-swamps, and a key element in the Democrats' subsequent obsession with campaign finance reforms aimed at anonymous contributors. But it turns out that even while flinging these baseless accusations, the political Left has seen its activists thrive in part thanks to a large dose of ... you guessed it: real, secret foreign money.

This is clearly a deceitful way to hide the source of millions of dollars that are active in our system, attempting to effect political change.

A report released last week by Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee provided a detailed look inside the environmental movement's money machine, particularly at a cozy group of billionaires and wealthy foundations that provides a huge chunk of Big Green cash. Among the hundreds of millions of dollars involved, tens of millions are anonymous donations coming from foreign sources whose identity is protected by convenient Bermuda secrecy laws.

The Bermuda-based corporation, Klein Ltd., for which there is almost no public information available, gave $23 million in 2010 and 2011 to the Sea Change Foundation. The Klein money could come from anywhere – old ladies in Florida, Mexican drug dealers, or foreign governments with a financial interest in stopping U.S. fossil fuel exploration. There is no way of knowing.

In turn, Sea Change Foundation, a $124 million organization whose one-page website contains no helpful information about the group, shifts this money around so that it ends up (directly or indirectly) in the hands of groups involved in political and policy activities – groups like the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, and the Blue-Green Alliance. The report remarks: "This is clearly a deceitful way to hide the source of millions of dollars that are active in our system, attempting to effect political change. ... It appears that Klein exists on paper only. ..."

Americans' donations for advocacy and politics should be both legal and encouraged. That's not the problem. What is stunning in this situation is the raw hypocrisy required to operate a movement this way while calling for laws that curtail others' First Amendment rights. In the ongoing IRS scandal, for example, conservative groups with comparatively tiny annual budgets faced a Spanish Inquisition when they dared to seek official nonprofit status from the IRS. Democrats in Congress have excused the actions of senior IRS bureaucrats, arguing that these Tea Party groups threaten to flood the political system with money from undisclosed sources.

Yet at the same time, Democrat politicians benefit from millions in Big Green cash that goes toward groups with similarly political and policy-based goals, and some of that money comes from at least one shadowy foreign source. There's a lesson in here somewhere.

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