By Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 12, 2010; 5:49 PM
Is the White House keeping a Nixonian enemies list?
Republican strategist Karl Rove alleged as much on "Fox News Sunday," saying the Obama administration is mounting a "desperate" and "disturbing" effort to track his political work, including that of the group American Crossroads.
On Tuesday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs fired back. Holding up a blank index card in front of reporters, he said: "Let me do this: I'm releasing our enemies list. No one is on it. Now can I see the donors to American Crossroads?"
Gibbs gets points for visuals aides, but his profession of dismay at Rove's accusations wasn't at all convincing. It was President Obama, after all, who started this fight. In recent weeks, the White House has accused Republican groups of using foreign and other shadowy funding to finance their advertising campaigns. At a rally in Illinois last week, Obama declared: "Just this week, we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these ads regularly takes in money from foreign sources."
But the charge has not been backed up by solid evidence, with the White House instead saying that the failure of outside groups to disclose their donors makes the foreign influence possible, perhaps even likely. Over the weekend, senior adviser David Axelrod was asked whether he had any evidence the foreign money accounted for anything more than peanuts. "Well, do you have any evidence that it's not?" he countered on CBS's "Face the Nation."
"It's certainly true that millions are being spent without public disclosure, and that much of the money is coming from corporations taking advantage of a Supreme Court ruling easing restrictions on political spending," the group wrote. "But using foreign funds to finance political ads is still a legal violation. Accusing anybody of violating the law is a serious matter requiring serious evidence to back it up. So far Democrats have produced none."
Obama dropped the accusations about foreign money influencing the elections in his campaign events Monday night. But White House officials are promising that the general idea - of big, anonymous sources of money - will stay central to the Democratic argument heading into the final weeks.
"The president will continue to make the argument that we don't know where this money comes from," Gibbs said, pointing to a favorite White House bogeyman, the Chamber of Commerce, as a perpetrator. "It's about big money special interests that are trying to take over an agenda without letting you know what their agenda is."
That is unlikely to quell the fight between the White House and Rove, which escalated further Tuesday, when Rove accused Obama of failing to complain about liberal-leaning groups that do not disclose their donors.
"President Obama based his attack on a blog posting by ThinkProgress, which is associated with the Center for American Progress. A group headed by John Podesta, who headed the president's transition," Rove said on "Good Morning America." "It is a political group and doesn't reveal its donors. The president didn't say anything about the League of Conservation donors. The National Resources Defense Council, which runs ads through its action fund, does not reveal its donors."
Gibbs called the retort a "very convenient, Rovian trick."