Obama Calls for Voters to Outweigh Outside Money
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CHICAGO -- President Obama used twin campaign appearances on Thursday to lash out at the private money that has filtered into Republican coffers for the November election campaign, suggesting that some of it came from abroad, and urging the Democratic Party faithful to symbolically drown out the cash with their "millions of voices."
In a not-so-veiled reference to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, President Obama complained that "groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections, and they won't tell you where the money for their ads come from." Mr. Obama mentioned a report by the Center for American Progress, a liberal research group, which this week asserted in a blog that the Chamber of Commerce may be mingling money from foreign contributors with its domestic receipts as it pays for advertisements and other political activities. That could be illegal, and the Chamber has vehemently denied it.
His remarks came at campaign events first in Bowie, Md., where he rallied about 4,000 students and African-Americans to support Gov. Martin O'Malley, and then later in Chicago, where he stumped for Alexi Giannoulias, the youthful state treasurer who is locked in a close fight with Representative Mark Steven Kirk, a Republican, for Mr. Obama's old Senate seat.
In Chicago, Mr. Obama did not mention Mr. Kirk's name -- he became, instead, "Alexi's opponent" -- but he spent much of his time attacking the Republican Party for its ties to big business.
The combined Chicago events, organizers said, will raise more than $750,000, half for Mr. Giannoulias and half for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
The Republican Party's "big idea," Mr. Obama said, was to give a tax cut to the wealthiest Americans. "At a time when education is the biggest predictor of this country's success," he said, "they think it's more important to provide these tax breaks."
In Bowie, Mr. Obama characterized the outside campaign financing as not "just a threat to Democrats."
He added: "All Republicans should be concerned. Independents should be concerned. This is a threat to our democracy. The American people deserve to know who's trying to sway their elections."
White House officials and Mr. Obama's Democratic backers have been taking aim at the Chamber of Commerce; Karl Rove, President George W. Bush's political adviser; and independent groups that have been spending to elect Republicans in November. The Chamber of Commerce on Thursday announced a new campaign focusing on the administration's rules on health care, the environment, labor and Wall Street reform.
David Plouffe, Mr. Obama's 2008 campaign manager, told reporters in Washington that such groups "are becoming the central financial actors in the 2010 election." He called the flood of money a "hijacking of our democracy."
Whether that sticks remains to be seen. Backers of Republicans and big business counter that Democrats, including the Obama campaign, also received money from undisclosed organizations in the 2008 campaign.
Mr. Obama has been seeking to fire up his Democratic base in the last three weeks before the November elections. To that end, he has been devoting a lot of his campaigning to friendly audiences on college campuses -- like the historically black Bowie State University -- and to fund-raisers, like the one in Chicago.
Facing what most political observers predict will be significant losses of the Democratic majority in Congress, Mr. Obama was using every weapon in his arsenal to convince the people who put him in the White House two years ago not to abandon the Democratic Party now.
"Don't make me look bad now," he said. "I'm betting on you."
Mr. O'Malley, who is battling the Republican he beat when Democrats were riding high in 2006, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., sounded familiar Democratic themes in introducing Mr. Obama.
"They took six years to drive the country into a ditch, and then wonder why this president can't make it right as rain in 18 months," Mr. O'Malley said.
But then, foreshadowing the tough road for his party this year, Mr. O'Malley added, perhaps unhelpfully, "They can take back New Jersey, they can take back Virginia, but they can't take back Maryland!"
First Published October 8, 2010 2:01 am