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White House steps up attack on anonymous campaigning

October 13, 2010

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House stepped up its attacks on Tuesday against anonymous funding of anti-Democrat advertising before the November 2 elections, and shrugged off claims it was trying to distract voters from the weak economy.

President Barack Obama, while taking care not to point the finger directly at any specific group, has escalated warnings that big business, and even foreign corporations, are spending heavily to sway the congressional and governors' elections in favor of Republicans.

"If there are organizations raising tens of millions of dollars who won't tell us who their donors are, my guess is they're not telling us for a reason -- because they have something to hide," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

"The best way to clear any of this stuff up would simply be to disclose the names."

Republicans, who are expected to make strong gains in the midterm poll as voters punish Obama's Democrats for a stuttering economy and unemployment stuck near 10 percent, say Americans care about job creation, not campaign finance.

All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 37 of the 100 Senate seats are up for grabs next month. Polls show Republicans could win control of the House and may even challenge Democratic command of the Senate.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has battled Obama over laws he has signed that it says hurt businesses, flatly denies any foreign funds contribute to its campaigns against his landmark healthcare and Wall Street reforms.

But an unapologetic White House challenged the Chamber to show Americans where its money comes from, and said Republicans were in the pocket of big business.

BALLOT BUYING

"They supplant an entire national political party, spend tens of millions of dollars, in the end in total probably hundreds of millions of dollars, without knowing who they are, what their agenda is or who they represent. That's not good for our democracy," Gibbs told a daily press briefing.

The business lobby said the administration was just trying to change the subject away from the economy and other issues that could cost Democrats votes on November 2.

"We are seeing an attempt to demonize specific groups and distract Americans from a failed economic agenda," said Bruce Josten, executive vice president at the Chamber. "With three weeks until Election Day, it's time to return to the discussion that Americans care most about: job creation," he said.

The Chamber has been particularly stung by a campaign rolled out by the Democratic National Committee that accused the business lobbying group and former Republican President George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove of taking foreign money.

There are no allegations of illegality. The Supreme Court, citing free speech rights guaranteed in the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, changed the law in January, overturning a ban on political spending by corporations in elections.

Obama criticized the decision as an ill-conceived victory for big business.

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