Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

The facts on foreign money in the 2010 campaign

President Barack Obama discusses campaign finance at a rally on Oct. 7, 2010, on behalf of Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley
President Barack Obama discusses campaign finance at a rally on Oct. 7, 2010, on behalf of Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley

Stumping for Democratic candidates in the past few weeks, President Barack Obama has repeatedly warned that foreign money may be bankrolling many of the attack ads being run against Democrats. And now he says he says he has found an Exhibit A: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Here's what the president said at a rally on Oct. 7, 2010, on behalf of Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley:

"Just this week, we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections. And they won't tell you where the money from their ads come from."

On ABC's This Week on Oct. 10, 2010, George Will connected the dots: "Well, he won't tell us who he's talking about. He's talking about the Chamber of Commerce, which does indeed receive dues from foreign entities that are associated with American business, just as the AFL-CIO receives dues from foreign entities associated with it. And -- and the shock and awe that we're supposed to feel from this is somewhat selective."

We checked both Obama's claim and Will's retort.

First, we examined Obama's claim that, "Groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections." The president was indeed, as Will said, talking about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

We concluded that while President Obama and other Democrats may have a legitimate concern about disclosure with groups like the Chamber of Commerce, they have no evidence that foreign money is behind the attack ads, as his comment suggested. We ruled Obama's statement Half True.

Next, we took a look Will's comment that just like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, "the AFL-CIO receives dues from foreign entities associated with it." We found that it's true that some individual unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO collect dues from foreign (Canadian) residents. And those unions pay dues to the AFL-CIO. But according to the AFL-CIO, the dues collected from non-U.S. residents are not passed up to the national AFL-CIO. And so we rated Will's comment Half True.