Part V THE U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
By Basia Yoffe
“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce describes itself as the world’s largest business federation, representing various enterprises throughout the nation. Its website says the Chamber’s main aim is ‘to fight for free enterprise before Congress, the White House, regulatory agencies, the courts, the court of public opinion, and governments around the world.’
"The Chamber foundation has been critical of growing federal regulation and spending, and in 2009, the Chamber kicked off a national advertising campaign to weaken the historic rewrite of the nation’s financial regulations. That year, Prudential Financial sent in a $2 million donation and Dow Chemical delivered $1.7 million to the Chamber as the group took a leading role in aggressively fighting proposed rules that would impose tighter security requirements on chemical facilities.
"Goldman Sachs, Chevron Texaco, and Aegon, a multinational insurance company based in the Netherlands, donated more than $8 million in recent years. These large donations—none of which were publicly disclosed by the Chamber, a tax-exempt group that keeps its donors secret, as it is allowed by law—offer a glimpse of the Chamber’s money-raising efforts, which it has ramped up recently in an orchestrated campaign to become one of the most well-financed critics of the Obama administration and an influential player in the 2010 midterm Congressional elections.
"And these contributions, some of which can be pieced together through tax filings of corporate foundations and other public records, also show how the Chamber has increasingly relied on a relatively small collection of big corporate donors to finance much of its legislative and political agenda. The Chamber makes no apologies for its policy of not identifying its donors. It has vigorously opposed legislation in Congress that would require groups like it to identify their biggest contributors when they spend money on campaign ads.
"The Chamber’s increasingly aggressive role—including record spending in the midterm elections that supports Republicans more than 90 percent of the time—has made it a target of critics, including a few local Chamber affiliates who fear it has become too partisan and hard-nosed in its fundraising.”
Budget for 2010: $200,000,000
Contributions Taken 2008: $140,000,000
Power and Influence of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a lobbying group that represents the interests of businesses and other industry associations. During the 2010 cycle, the conservative-leaning organization spent nearly $33 million on election communications, making it the biggest spender among organizations that were not national party committees. The U.S. Chamber generally supports Republican candidates or opposes Democratic candidates in its communications.
"Because it is a nonprofit business association organized under section 501(c)6 of the Internal Revenue Service’s code, the Chamber does not have to disclose its donors. Furthermore, because the Chamber does not sponsor ‘independent expenditures,’ in which an organization overtly urges people to vote for or against a candidate, it does not have to disclose in federal documents whether it is formally supporting or opposing a candidate.
"During the 2010 election cycle, the Chamber spent more than $1 million on reportable electioneering communications in nine different races.”
2010 Lobbying Expenditures: $132,067,500
2009 Lobbying Expenditures: $144,496,000
Senator John Thune (R-SD) is a major recipient of support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. At a March 2009 gathering of business owners at Chamber of Commerce headquarters in Washington, DC, Thune and Chamber leaders praised attendees who were getting their instructions to lobby against the Employee Free Choice Act as “first Marines hitting the beach” to defeat a “job killer” bill.
Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) was awarded a prestigious Spirit of Enterprise Award by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in April 2010, as she had been each year since 2007, when she joined Congress. This award goes to members of Congress who support the Chamber’s pro-growth economic policies in at least 70 percent of “key votes. In addition, Bachman favors phasing out Social Security and Medicare, and she does not believe climate change is a threat.
Apple Computer, Pacific Gas and Electric, PNM Resources, and Exelon all resigned their membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce the fall of 2009 because of the Chamber’s criticism of the Obama administration’s effort to limit greenhouse-gas emissions.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce lobbied very heavily to defeat climate-change legislation. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/05/AR200910...
According to e-mails obtained by ThinkProgress—an organization dedicated to social and economic justice—the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hired the lobbying firm Hunton and Williams. Attorneys for the firm solicited a set of private security firms—HB Gary Federal, Palantir, and Berico Technologies—to develop a sabotage campaign against progressive groups and labor unions, including ThinkProgress, the labor coalition Change to Win, SEIU (Service Employees International Union), U.S. Chamber Watch, and StopTheChamber.com.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce joined with Scholastic Books in 2010 to distribute learning modules to about 100,000 middle-school classrooms across the country about the potential perils of government fossil-fuel regulation. It is the first of three proposed learning modules on energy topics.