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US group denies misusing funds.

AN American business association has vehemently denied reports that money from Bahraini companies was being used to fund political campaigns in the US.

American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Bahrain president Adel Al Safar said allegations that the US Chamber of Commerce was using foreign funds to support Republican politicians were unfounded.

It follows an article published on Tuesday by Washington-based liberal policy group the Centre for American Progress, which claimed AmCham Bahrain generated well over $100,000 (BD37,800) through board members of an affiliate group.

The organisation claimed payments of $10,000 per member were made directly to the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington, which it alleges has launched a major campaign against Democrat politicians in the US.

It listed a number of prominent Bahraini firms as members of the alleged AmCham Bahrain affiliate, called the US-Bahrain Business Council (USBBC).

However, Mr Al Safar denied any link between the organisations.

Representatives of most of the companies either denied membership of the USBCC or were unaware of their membership status when contacted by the GDN yesterday.

"We (AmCham Bahrain) are not engaged in any political campaign or with any political parties," Mr Al Safar told the GDN.

"We deal with the promotion of business and economic ties between Bahrain and the US.

"We're not involved in politics locally, regionally or in the US and we work within a clear and transparent framework.

"I want to emphasise the message that the people who have published these stories are trying to ruin Bahrain's reputation and have no facts or evidence to support what they are saying.

"Our focus is only on promoting business links and opportunities between Bahrain and the US."

The USBBC describes itself on its website as "the premier international forum where public and private sector stakeholders can address bilateral business relations between the United States and the Kingdom of Bahrain".

However, Mr Al Safar stressed that AmCham Bahrain and USBBC were separate entities.

"The US-Bahrain Business Council is a completely different organisation and, as far as I know, is based in the US, but we are not engaged in any way with them," he said.

"When we started out in 2006, the founder members paid $10,000 for the set-up of operations in Bahrain and that then incorporated a five-year membership for each party.

Members

"We now have over 100 members between the general and individual categories.

"General members pay an annual fee of BD500 and individual members pay BD75 but all that money goes back into the chamber's operations in Bahrain."

When the GDN contacted a number on the USBBC website yesterday, a recorded message directed callers to the US Chamber of Commerce.

However, a spokesman for the US Chamber of Commerce said nobody in a position to speak was available.

He did, however, insist that it was illegal for foreign funding to be used in election campaigns under a 1907 US law.

thanratty@gdn.com.bh

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:Oct 7, 2010
Words:504
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