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Monday, January 3, 2011
BMI Attacks Top 'Economic Myth' With A Myth
Topic: Media Research Center

The MRC's Business & Media Institute recently issued its list of the year's "Top 10 Economic Myths." It might be a litle more credible if it didn't rely on myths to attack them.

Take, for instance, the top "economic myth," "The Chamber of Commerce is Taking 'Secret Foreign Money' for Election." Julia Seymour writes:

This myth about the Chamber of Commerce began with unsubstantiated claims from one left-wing group, but was soon embraced by the DNC, Obama and by liberal media outlets.

Think Progress, a left-wing website and arm of the George Soros-funded Center for American Progress, claimed that the Chamber was soliciting foreign money to pay for political attack ads in the U.S. midterm elections. That's a serious charge since it is illegal to spend foreign money on domestic elections, yet the group offered no evidence to support the allegation.

That didn't prevent Keith Olbermann of MSNBC from railing against the Chamber night after night. On one show he said the group was "something like the Manchurian Chamber of Commerce." The Los Angeles Times said the claim was "gaining traction" Oct. 7.

Surprisingly, it was the liberal New York Times that noted how baseless Think Progress' claim really was. The Times wrote on Oct. 8, "[T]here is little evidence that what the Chamber does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents."

The paper went on to say that, "Organizations from both ends of the political spectrum, from liberal ones like the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and the Sierra Club to conservative groups like the National Rifle Association, have international affiliations and get money from foreign entities while at the same time pushing political causes in the United States."

Tom Collamore, senior vice president of communications for the Chamber, told the Business & Media Institute the attacks were a distraction: "We certainly had our share of distractions in this election season. However, we remained focused like a laser on the issues we - and it turns out, the voters - care about: jobs and the economy."

Chamber President Tom Donohue called the Think Progress accusations "patently untrue" in an Oct. 12 letter. He also called out the White House for repeating the baseless claims "to try to salvage an election."

"Let me be clear. The Chamber does not use any foreign money to fund voter education activities - period," Donohue wrote. "We have strict financial controls in place to ensure this. The funds we receive from American Chambers of Commerce abroad, bilateral business councils, and non-U.S. based global companies represent a small fraction of our more than $200 million annual revenues. Under our accounting system, these revenues are never used to support any political activities. We are in full compliance with all laws and regulations."

At no point does Seymour actually disprove the claim. She asserted that Think Progress "offered no evidence to support the allegation," but the Chamber has never offered any evidence to support its denial. It has yet to publicly demonstrate how its "strict financial controls" keep foreign money from funding the Chamber's political activities -- indeed, Chamber spokesperson Tita Freeman has declared, "We are not obligated to discuss our internal accounting procedures." Seymour is merely taking the Chamber's denials at face value.

By the way, Think Progress didn't actually accuse the Chamber of "soliciting foreign money to pay for political attack ads in the U.S. midterm elections"; rather, it highlighted that "foreign money is fungible" and that the pot of money that paid for the attack ads is the same one that accepts foreign dues.

Of course, the reason Think Progress "offered no evidence to support the allegation" is that the Chamber doesn't feel obligated to release any such documentation, pro or con, since it's not required under campaign disclosure laws. This means the Chamber's denial is even more of a "myth" than Seymour claims Think Progress' original accusation is.

In another example of using myths to debunk "myths," Seymour's second-place entry was that the so-called "ClimateGate" scandal over stolen emails "isn't a big deal." Seymour writes that "It's been more than a year since leaked emails and files showed that global warming alarmists 'can't account for the lack of warming at the moment,' were attempting to 'hide the decline' of temperatures and indicated that their temperature records were in a 'hopeless' state."

But those are largely phrases taken out of context. The statement by one scientist who "can't account for the lack of warming at the moment" doesn't disprove that global warming is happening, and the "hide the decline" statement was in reference to dealing with unreliable tree-ring data, not a conspiracy to discard accurate data.

Seymour then attempted to discredit investigations that cleared researchers of wrongdoing in the stolen emails, asserting that "there is evidence to suggest those 'independent' investigations were a 'whitewash.'" Her only evidence is citing the Cato Institute's Pat Michaels -- a global warming denier who has a vested interest in discrediting such investigations.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:51 AM EST

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