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Obama calls for votes to outweigh outside money

CHICAGO — President Barack Obama used twin campaign appearances Thursday to lash out at the private money that has filtered into Republican coffers for the November election campaign, suggesting that some of it came from abroad. He urged the Democratic Party faithful to symbolically drown out the cash with their “millions of voices.”

Obama complained that “groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections, and they won’t tell you where the money for their ads come from.”

Obama mentioned a report by the Center for American Progress, a liberal research group, which this week asserted in a blog that the Chamber of Commerce may be mingling money from foreign contributors with its domestic receipts as it pays for ads and other political activities. That could be illegal, and the Chamber has denied it.

His remarks came at campaign events first in Bowie, Md., where he rallied some 4,000 students and blacks to support Gov. Martin O’Malley, Later in Chicago, he stumped for Alexi Giannoulias, the youthful state treasurer who is locked in a close fight with Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, a Republican, for Obama’s old Senate seat.

Obama has been seeking to fire up his Democratic base in the last three weeks before the November elections. To that end, he has been devoting a lot of his campaigning to friendly audiences on college campuses.

Changes have money talking louder than ever in midterms

The dominant story line of this year’s midterm elections is increasingly becoming the torrents of money, much of it anonymous, gushing into House and Senate races across the country.

Television spending by outside interest groups has more than doubled what was spent at this point in the 2006 midterms, according to data from the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising.

The explanation for how these interest groups have become such powerful players this year includes not just the Supreme Court’s ruling in January in the Citizens United case that struck down restrictions on corporate spending on elections, but also a constellation of other legal developments since 2007 that have gradually loosened strictures governing campaign financing and the regulation of third-party groups.

Add in the competitive political environment, with Republicans ascendant, the Obama administration struggling to break the perception that it is hostile to business, and the resulting stew is potent.

In the end, though, it is the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that remains the touchstone. Interestingly, the legal changes directly wrought by the case have turned out to be quite subtle, according to campaign finance lawyers and political operatives. Instead, they said, the case has been more important for the psychological impact it had on the biggest donors.

GM’s wage-cut deal clears way for U.S.-made subcompact car

ORION TOWNSHIP, Mich. — General Motors is trying to do what no other automaker has accomplished before — make money on a low-price subcompact car built in the United States with unionized labor.

The United Auto Workers has agreed to an unusual deal that might make the goal attainable at the GM assembly plant here by significantly cutting the wages of hundreds of workers.

Under a cost-saving arrangement, GM will pay 60 percent of the plant’s 1,550 workers the going wage of about $28 an hour, and the remainder of the workers about half as much — or $14 an hour. The Orion plant, which previously made midsize sedans, will be converted to build a subcompact Chevrolet model, making it the focal point of GM’s strategy to bring smaller, more fuel-efficient cars to American consumers. “This is the place that we want to start making small cars in America, in Michigan, for profit,” Mark L. Reuss, head of GM’s North American operations, said Thursday in a ceremony at the plant.

GM’s previous subcompact, the Aveo, had been imported from South Korea. The company will most likely change the name for the new version to symbolize the anticipated fresh start for the car manufactured in the United States.

GM’s total investment in its small-car programs in the United States — both compact and subcompact — is more than $1 billion, Reuss said.

Siemens train picked for channel tunnel

PARIS — In an effort to prepare for competition on cross-Channel rail traffic, Eurostar said Thursday that it had awarded a highly sought contract to upgrade its old fleet of fast trains to Siemens of Germany.

The announcement did not sit well in Paris, which had backed a French champion, and officials criticized the decision.

The 700 million euro, or $1.1 billion, contract will provide Eurostar — which is majority-owned by the French government through its ownership of the national railway SNCF — with 10 of Siemens’ sleek new Velaro e320 trains. The Siemens’ trains beat the AGV trains made by Alstom, the French industrial conglomerate.

Eurostar hopes the new fleet will better position it for competition from Deutsche Bahn, the German operator that plans to offer service from points in Germany to London by the end of 2013.

The Eurostar e320, as it is known, can carry more than 900 passengers at about 200 miles an hour, compared with current trains, which can carry 750 at speeds of up to 185 miles an hour.

Nicolas Petrovic, chief executive of Eurostar, said in London that the contract was awarded based on “technical, commercial and pricing criteria.”