Four years ago, frustrated with President Bush and the Republican Congress, voters handed over to Democrats the gavels to the House and Senate chambers.
Weeks before the 2006 election, the Washington Post matter-of-factly noted that "Outside Groups [Were] Shoveling Cash Into Tight Races."
In that 24-paragraph October 3 article, Post staffers noted massive independent expenditures being spent by left and right-leaning groups -- including $40 million for Democrats/against GOP candidates by labor unions -- but recorded only mild annoyance by some Republican candidates:
The intervention of outside groups, especially at high levels, can be a mixed blessing. Maureen O'Brien Donovan, spokeswoman for Rep. John E. Sweeney (R-N.Y.), asserted that MoveOn.org's commercials against her boss have backfired. "Its intervention and its volunteers aren't from here, and that's well known to the general public," she said. "People who have lived here all their lives find those types of things suspect."
At the same time, candidates cannot control the groups' messages or their delivery, which sometimes causes voter confusion. "Nobody knows who these guys are, and voters have no way of judging their interests or their donors," said George Rasley, [Rep. Deborah] Pryce's spokesman.
By the way, Sweeney lost that race and Pryce won reelection very narrowly, deciding not to run for reelection in 2008.
But now that Republicans seem likely to recapture the House and Republican-friendly interest groups are spending heavily on campaign ads, President Obama and Democrats are raising a clamor, with liberal mainstream media outlets like the Washington Post more than happy to comply in painting those groups, particularly the Chamber of Commerce, in a negative light.
Last Monday, the Post's Dan Eggen and T.W. Farnham complained about a "spending frenzy conducted largely in the shadows."
The complaint continues in today's front page article by Eggen and Post colleague Scott Wilson --"Obama steps up attack on the Chamber: Questions source of GOP fund" -- which is filled with loaded language (emphasis mine) about the Chamber's "onslaught" of spending:
The White House intensified its attacks Sunday on the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce for its alleged ties to foreign donors, part of an escalating Democratic effort to link Republican allies with corporate and overseas interests ahead of the November midterm elections.
The chamber adamantly denies that foreign funds are used in its U.S. election efforts, accusing Democrats of orchestrating a speculative smear campaign during a desperate political year.
President Obama, speaking at a rally in Philadelphia, said "the American people deserve to know who is trying to sway their elections" and raised the possibility that foreigners could be funding his opponents.
"You don't know," Obama said at the rally for Senate candidate Joe Sestak and other Democrats. "It could be the oil industry. It could even be foreign-owned corporations. You don't know because they don't have to disclose."
The remarks are part of a volley of recent attacks by Obama and other Democrats on alleged foreign influence within the Republican caucus, whether through support for outsourcing jobs by major U.S. corporations or through overseas money making its way into the coffers of GOP-leaning interest groups.
The comments also come as Democrats attempt to cope with an onslaught of independent political advertising aimed at bolstering Republicans, much of it fueled by donations that do not have to be revealed to the public. The spending has added to a political environment in which Democrats are in danger of losing control of both the House and Senate.
David Axelrod, a top Obama adviser, said on CBS's "Face the Nation" that secret political donations to the chamber and other groups pose "a threat to our democracy."
Axelrod also took the unusual step of calling on the chamber to release internal documents backing up its contention that foreign money is not being used to pay for U.S. political activities. Democrats have seized on a report by a liberal blog alleging that dues from chamber-affiliated business councils could be used in that way.