The White House attack on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce isn't about "disclosure." It's about disarmament. While posing as campaign finance champions, the ultimate goal of the Democratic offensive is to intimidate conservative donors, chill political free speech and drain Republican coffers.
Chamber of Commerce official Bruce Josten tried to educate the public. "(W)e know what the purpose here is," he told ABC News. "It's to harass and intimidate." Josten cited protests and threats against chamber members as retribution for ads the organization ran opposing the federal health care takeover.
But this isn't the first time liberal bullyboys have targeted right-leaning contributors. Far from it.
In August 2008, a former Washington director of MoveOn.org — the smear merchant group that branded Gen. David Petraeus a traitor for overseeing the successful troop surge in Iraq — announced a brazen witch hunt against Republican donors. Left-wing political operative Tom Matzzie told The New York Times he would send "warning" letters to 10,000 top GOP givers "hoping to create a chilling effect that will dry up contributions." Matzzie bragged of "going for the jugular" and said the warning letter would be just the first step, "alerting donors who might be considering giving to right-wing groups to a variety of potential dangers, including legal trouble, public exposure and watchdog groups digging through their lives."
Defenders of this brown-shirt initiative played the disclosure card — hey, they were just providing "information" — to rationalize the public humiliation of GOP donors.
Matzzie also put up a $100,000 bounty for dirt on conservative political groups "to create a sense of scandal around the groups" and dissuade donors from giving money. The effort was cheered by Accountable America adviser Judd Legum, founder of Think Progress — the same group leading the attack today on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Yet, Matzzie's group, Accountable America, is itself a 501(c)(4) nonprofit entity that shields the identity of its donors. (The group is required by law to remain nonpartisan, but has described itself as "dedicated to electing Democrats to the state legislature across America.") By targeting direct, hard-money contributors who are required to disclose their occupations, addresses and employers, Matzzie's assault simply created a sunshine-evading incentive to steer campaign donations to soft-money groups that protect donor identities. You know, like Accountable America does.
Piggybacking on the Accountable America foray, Obama's presidential campaign lawyers demanded that the Justice Department block TV stations from airing a documented, factual independent ad spotlighting Obama's longtime working relationship with unrepentant Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers. Obama summoned his followers to bombard stations, many of them owned by conservative-leaning Sinclair Communications, with 93,000 e-mails to squelch the commercial. Team Obama then tried — and failed — to convince the DOJ to investigate and prosecute the American Issues Project, the group that produced the Ayers ad, as well as Dallas billionaire and GOP donor Harold Simmons, who funded it.
Two Obama supporters — Democratic St. Louis County (Mo.) Circuit Attorney Bob McCulloch and St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce — took the next step and threatened to bring criminal libel charges against anyone who sponsored objectionable criticisms of Obama.
In California, gay rights mau-mau-ers compiled black lists and harassment lists of citizens who contributed to the Proposition 8 initiative in defense of traditional marriage. A Los Angeles restaurant whose manager made a small donation to the Prop. 8 campaign was besieged nightly by hordes of protesters who disrupted the business, intimidated patrons and brought employees to tears. Terrified workers at El Coyote Mexican Cafe pooled together $500 to pay off the protesters. A theater director who donated $1,000 to Prop. 8 was forced to resign over the donation.
Anonymous mischief-makers created "Eight Maps," a detailed directory of Prop. 8 donors using Google Maps to pinpoint their residences and businesses. Death threats, enveloped with powdery substances, and boycotts ensued. "When I see those maps," admitted California Voter Foundation President Kim Alexander, "it does leave me with a bit of a sick feeling in my stomach."
It's the same feeling every American should be left with after witnessing the liberal thug-tested, White House-approved donor suppression campaign against fiscal and social conservatives. In the hands of leftist vigilantes, "disclosure" is a deadly bludgeon; political free speech is the casualty.
Michelle Malkin is the author of "Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies" (Regnery 2010). Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.