The Democrats are “shocked, shocked” to find out foreign donations are making their way into our political system.

No less than Barack Obama himself raised the ugly specter of foreign donations at a Philadelphia fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee this week, saying Republicans in Congress “are being helped along this year by special-interest groups that are spending unlimited amounts … without ever disclosing who’s behind all these attack ads. You don’t know. It could be the oil industry. It could be the insurance industry. It could even be foreign-owned corporations.”

This from the candidate who in 2008 didn’t accept public financing so he could raise as much money as he wanted and apparently from whomever he wanted – including at least one documented case of contributions from the Palestinian Authority.

Personally, I like what Rush Limbaugh had to say about this pot-calling-the-kettle-black desperation gambit.

“Speaking of foreign donations, we don’t even know whether or not Obama is a foreign donation.”

But it’s hardly just Obama grasping for a way to accuse opponents of doing what Democrats did in 2008, 2006, 2004, 2002, 2000, 1996 and 1992 in ways and amounts that made Americans’ heads spin.

MoveOn.org is attacking Republican Mark Kirk, who is seeking Obama’s old Senate seat in Illinois. In the spot, an announcer says the Chamber of Commerce, which is also backing some Democrats, is spending $75 million to help Republicans like Kirk get elected.

Says an announcer: “And where has the chamber been getting some of their money lately? From foreign corporations in countries like China, Russia and India, the same companies that threaten American jobs. It’s time to connect the dots.”

In an ad released over the weekend, the Democratic National Committee made this charge: “Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie – they’re Bush cronies. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce – they’re shills for big business. And they’re stealing our democracy. Spending millions from secret donors to elect Republicans to do their bidding in Congress. It appears they’re even taking secret foreign money to influence our elections. It’s incredible, Republicans benefiting from secret foreign money. Tell the Bush crowd and the Chamber of Commerce – stop stealing our democracy.”

I guess the Democrats are counting on Americans forgetting who broke open the dam on foreign campaign contributions in 1992 and 1996. Do the names Charlie Trie and Johnny Chung and Mochtar Riady have a familiar ring? Does anyone remember Chinagate?

Bill Clinton invented it. John Kerry perfected it. Obama took it to new heights in 2008. Now they’re “shocked, shocked” that foreign money is finding its way into political campaigns.

Personally, I think foreign contributions should be strictly forbidden in U.S. elections. That should be the extent of campaign finance laws – that and full disclosure of all U.S. contributions. There should be no limits on political spending because that is a gross violation of the First Amendment.

But we don’t have a system that should permit foreigners from choosing our elected representatives – with good reason. That’s for Americans to decide.

Is this the best Democrats can come up with to salvage their election dreams in 2010?

Is this their October surprise?

Notice none of the Democrats are forswearing taking foreign contributions themselves. That’s the giveaway that this smear is a tactic, a campaign gimmick, an attempt to sway the tea-party vote to consider Democrats as an alternative this year.

I’m not fond of Republicans, having written “None of the Above” in 2008, but if ever there were a year to cast enthusiastic ballots for the GOP, this is it.

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