His name is Lee Fang and he specializes in splashy claims that sound great but frequently turn out to be completely false or very nearly so. Last October his splash was that the pro-business Chamber of Commerce was taking foreign money to influence US elections.
It was just what the Dems needed, a ready-made villain to rile up the base. And sure enough, everyone jumped on board. President Obama’s chief adviser David Axelrod pimped the story and the DNC quickly (maybe too quickly) produced an ad repeating Fang’s juicy “secret foreign money” line:
Everyone from the NY Times on down looked into Fang’s claim and pronounced it specious, but the left needed something to talk about other than their dim election prospects. The Chamber story sucked all the oxygen out of the room for a few news cycles and then, having served its purpose, it receded back into the fever swamp of paid progressive blogging from which it came.
But in a surprise twist it turns out Fang was right about major organizations taking foreign money to influence US elections. He just needed to look a little closer to home:
The Atlantic Philanthropies has emerged in recent years as a key, quiet funder of the institutional left, providing the money behind, among other groups, the health care outfit Health Care for America Now.
The organization has kept a low profile in part because its funder, duty-free shopping magnate Chuck Feeney, doesn’t appear particularly interested in pubicity. Feeney’s foundation is a giant donor in a number of regions around the world, including Northern Ireland; but he and the Atlantic Philanthropies are based in Bermuda, with the consequence that — through a quirk of tax law — they can freely finance the 501(c)4 organizations that play in politics, which American family foundations can’t do.
Bermuda is a British territory, meaning this is a foreign entity. And if we’re going to go full-on xenophic about it, it should probably be noted that the company founded by Feeney (and therefore is the origin of the funds given away by Atlantic Philanthropies), the Duty Free Shoppers Group, was started in and retains its headquarters in Hong Kong, once upon a time a British territory and now under control of the Chinese government.
So, which U.S. based organizations do the foreign-based and foreign-funded Atlantic Philanthropies support? The foundation helpfully provides a list and a searchable database, and it turns out that the highly political Center for American Progress (CAP) and Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF) received $1,653,000 in five separate grants in 2008 and 2009, most of that going to CAPAF.
CAPAF is not only a 501(c)4 organization able to run political ads, it is the home of ThinkProgress and Lee Fang…
Hat tip to Erick Erickson at Red State for noting this delicious story.