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US Chamber of Commerce under fire for campaign finance

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Will the Justice Department get involved?

In a letter to the US Justice Department Tuesday, Executive Director Justin Ruben requested “an immediate criminal investigation into the use by the US Chamber of Commerce of contributions by foreign nationals to pay for advertising advocating the election or defeat of candidates for federal office.”

The essence of the charge – based on a detailed report by Think Progress, a project of the liberal Center for American Progress Action Fund – is that the US Chamber’s political advertising money comes partly from the donations of foreign business members.

In a statement headlined “Lies & Damned Lies,” Tita Freeman, the US Chamber’s executive director for communications and strategy, calls the charge of illegal fundraising “a partisan effort to attack and silence the voice of business and free enterprise.”

At issue is the activity of the 115 American Chambers of Commerce around the world (“AmChams”), which raise money from foreign corporations and pay dues to the US Chamber. From there, the picture is less clear.

Think Progress alleges that money from the AmChams goes into a common pot, from which campaign advertising is doled out.

Not so, insists Ms. Freeman

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