Top Ten Ways the U.S. Chamber is a Partisan Shill
Last Thursday, the doors of the U.S. Chamber were once again stacked with Occupy DC protestors, while the Republican National Committee held its holiday party inside. We have to agree with Politico’s Ken Vogel, who recently tweeted, “If the US Chamber of Commerce doesn’t want to be thought of as a GOP arm, it probably shouldn’t host @RNC holiday party.”
The truth is, the Chamber has consistently decked its halls with partisanship and we expect them to up the ante in 2012 – acting, once again, as a shadow RNC – funded by big corporations that don’t have to disclose their involvement in proliferating misleading ads and favoring partisan politics. In the style of the Late Show with David Letterman, we now present:
Top Ten Ways the U.S. Chamber is a Partisan Shill
1.) The Republican National Committee Held its 2011 Holiday Party at the U.S. Chamber.
2.) 93% of the U.S. Chamber’s Reported Spending on Electioneering Communications During the 2010 Election Cycle Favored Republicans.
4.) The Chamber’s 2012 Political Team is Being Run by RNC Alums Scott Reed and Rob Engstrom.
6.) The U.S. Chamber’s Top Communications Staff Include Former GOP Leader John Boehner Staffer Nick Schaper and Sean Hackbarth, Previously of the Senate Republican Conference and Republican Fred Thompson’s Presidential Campaign.
7.) The U.S. Chamber Coordinated with Right Leaning Groups Like Crossroads GPS, the National Republican Congressional Committee and Others to Elect a Republican Congress in 2010.
9.) The Chamber Leaks Scandal Revealed that the U.S. Chamber’s Long-Time Outside Counsel was Involved in Planning “A Dirty Tricks Campaign” to “Monitor Liberal Critics.”
10.) …And as Rolling Stone’s Tom Dickinson Pointed Out:
“Where does this radical new GOP orthodoxy come from? On the economic and regulatory front, at least, a recent interview with Tom Donohue, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, offers a clue. Donohue outlined the business group’s top policy prescriptions – and they are virtually identical to those promoted by the GOP candidates.”
Chamber’s Ads Mislead on Healthcare
The US Chamber of Commerce is back at it, doing corporate America’s dirty work. 2012 is set to be their largest ever ‘voter education’ campaign — and that is saying something! They’ve already spent about 10 million dollars in 21 districts and made the biggest political ad buy the internet as ever seen.
The Chamber has a blank check and they’re taking aim at healthcare.
According to FactCheck.org the Chamber’s ‘education’ campaign is more imaginative than informational:
- Incendiary ads in Florida twist a CBO healthcare report to frame Senator Ben Nelson and former Representative Alan Grayson for causing 20 million Americans to potentially lose their health insurance.
- Another Florida ad leads voters to believe that the individual mandate has been ruled unconstitutional when numerous federal judges have upheld it. The Supreme Court has the final word and is expected to rule in June.
The Chamber plans to spend upwards of $50 million in swing districts.
The latest round of anonymously funded fiction comes on the heals of Walmart’s Mexican pay-to-play scandal and the healthcare insurance industry’s bait and switch on reform. In both instances the US Chamber of Commerce enabled corporations to save face while deceiving the American public.
Enough is enough. Demand that the Chamber correct its false ads and disclose who’s who in their behemoth operation.
Chamber Holiday Party for the 1% This Thursday
This Thursday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will be holding its annual, lavish holiday party at its Washington D.C. headquarters. If past parties are any indication, the Chamber – perhaps its AIG-sponsored “Hall of Flags” – will likely be filled with Chamber staffers, lobbyists, lawmakers, and Chamber member company reps eating, drinking and being merry.
Past reports and photos of the party depict – in our interpretation – the epitome of an elite gathering of the 1%, for the 1%, by the 1%. And hosted by the 1%, namely Chamber CEO Tom Donohue, who as it was reported last month, earned his highest-ever compensation of $4.7 million, during a year when he constantly pointed to the economic crisis and called out public employees’ “over-bloated” compensation in his stump speeches.
As CEOs and lawmakers presumably sit on the Chamber-hired Santa’s lap tomorrow and perhaps ask him for the Chamber to give them and their corporations “all the deniability” they need in the coming election year, keep in mind that anytime you see “sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce” or “supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce” what you are really seeing is “sponsored by the 1%” – bought and paid for by corporate interests.
And a word to the Chamber’s Santa: Don’t worry if you forget your fake beard for the party this year, the Chamber’s got you covered.
A Chamber #Fail in its First Round of Attack Ads, While Calls for Google to Leave Chamber Continue
Your turkey leftovers may be almost gone but the U.S. Chamber is getting stuffed with critique this week.
A Gaggle of Misleading Ads: The U.S. Chamber’s first ad buy of the 2012 election cycle, attacking a handful of Senate Democrats, had several inaccuracies, according to Politico, the Huffington Post, and Factcheck.org:
- Chamber Ad Misspelled Senator’s Name. Politico reported that while baselessly attacking Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana, a Chamber ad misspelled the Senator’s name.
- Chamber Accused of Altering Images in Ad Attacking Ohio Dem Senator Brown. Amanda Terkel of Huffington Post reported that the Chamber deceived viewers in its recent ad attacking Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. According to Terkel, Brown’s wife posted on Facebook, and said the Chamber “altered images of Sherrod to make him look dark and unshaven,” and added that the ad “was funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce…we are not afraid, not one little bit.”
- Chamber Used Photo of Turn-of-the-Century Ghost Town to Depict Current Job Loss in MT. According to Politico, in the same ad attacking Tester, the U.S. Chamber used a stock photo of “an actual Montana ghost town” where “jobs were lost more than a century ago” in claiming that the Senator could cause more job losses today.
- Chamber Ad Claims Called “Dubious” by UPenn’s Factcheck.org. And the Chamber did not escape a lashing by the renowned FactCheck.org, at the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. FactCheck.org called out the Chamber’s “dubious” claims, including the assertion that Tester supported “government-run health care” – a concept which FactCheck.org considered the “lie of the year” in 2010. The organization also said there was “not a lot of truth” to the charge that Tester favored “rising health insurance costs” or that he might cause fear of “high unemployment” calling that claim a “real stretch” because “Montana’s unemployment rate is actually well below the national average.”
A Petition of Grav(y) Importance – Amassing Online Support for Google to Quit the Chamber: Yesterday, the organization SumOfUs launched a website petition, www.googlequitthechamber.org, encouraging Google to quit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The company already announced it was mulling a spilt from the Chamber and this petition pleads, “The Chamber’s policies are evil. Google – Don’t be evil.” The petition offers visitors “49 reasons for Google to quit the Chamber,” pegging their record on many issues from civil rights, to financial reform, to LGBT rights to partisanship. Visitors can choose to “+1” their reasons presented in pairs of two.
Another Local Chamber Withdraws From The U.S. Chamber Citing Their Partisanship, Positions On Climate Change And Health Care
Last week, another local Chamber of Commerce member announced that they had canceled their membership to the U.S. Chamber, citing the national business lobby’s intense partisanship, opposition to health care reform and draconian views on climate change. Since 2009, nearly sixty local Chambers of Commerce have either withdrawn or denounced the U.S. Chamber. In fact, just this past fall the Asheville (NC), Newton-Needham (MA), and Homer (AK) Chambers of Commerce withdrew from the U.S. Chamber, all disavowing the national organizations extreme positions.
In a statement, the Taos County Chamber of Commerce’s (TCCC) CEO explicitly denounced the U.S. Chamber’s extreme positions:
Myth: The policies and views of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are shared by the TCCC.
Fact: Nothing could be further from the truth. The TCCC bases its policies and views on input from our Taos business community, not on what might score points in the political arena. Our job is to advocate for the best interests of our members and the business community at large. A national organization has no way of being in tune with what is important to Taosenos. Because many of the views of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are opposed to the views of our membership and the business community we decided it would be in our best interests to sever our relationship with the national organization.
All of this is not to say that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce does not have some very good programs and policies. The USCC has been fighting for the interests of the national business community for many years. They have educational programs such as the Institute for Organization Management, of which I’m a graduate, which are great opportunities to learn from some of the best industry professionals in the country. The organization also has great training for working with government officials and promoting a business agenda. At some point they may back off their stands on environmental issues and health care, plus their political endorsements. When that happens we may entertain joining again. Until that time we will continue to listen to our business community and fight for what will benefit their interests.
And it’s not just local Chambers of Commerce that reject the U.S. Chamber’s extreme partisanship and radical positions. Last month, Yahoo! joined a growing chorus of major corporations that have either withdrawn or denounced the U.S. Chamber. In a bombshell report last week, Politico revealed that Google and the Consumer Electronics Association are “frustrated” with the U.S. Chamber and are considering canceling their memberships.
It’s becoming increasingly clear to businesses and local Chambers of Commerce that the U.S. Chamber’s radically partisan agenda is against their interests.
U.S. Chamber Holiday Party Occupied as Citizens Rolled Out the 99% Red Carpet
Photo by David Sachs/SEIU
[Click here for Video]
Yesterday evening, attendees of the U.S. Chamber’s annual holiday party got a taste of the Occupy movement as they entered the event. As they walked down a red carpet that led to the front door of Chamber Headquarters, chanting protestors greeted them on both sides and closer the door, the red carpet turned into a “human red carpet” with occupiers laying underneath it and “99%” written all over it. “The idea…was to force Washington’s well-heeled partiers to tread upon the less fortunate,” according to the AP.
As Think Progress pointed out, the action caused top Chamber lobbyist Bruce Josten to stand outside the building “at the foot of the carpet most of the time, welcoming his frightened, amused, and befuddled guests, easily distinguishable from the activists by their business attire.” Or as Josh Harkinson from Mother Jones described him: “the one wearing a three-piece pinstripe suit and tassle loafers, greeting people and encouraging them to brave the crowd.”
But protestors were not just there to rain on Josten’s platinum parade – they were really there to make it known that the Chamber exists to serve the 1% – and what better time to do so than at the Chamber’s lavish holiday party. As International Business Times reported, “[the] U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the nation’s largest corporate lobbying group, whom Occupy protesters believe have an unethical amount of influence on elected officials and the U.S. political system.” Perhaps, as CEOs, lobbyists, lawmakers, hill staffers and other special interests walked through the Chamber’s front door, they were forced to think about the millions of unemployed, struggling Americans who got into that bind as a direct effect of much of the profit-driven, economy-collapsing decisions made by the very corporations who sponsored the party inside. Maybe it sunk in that the U.S. Chamber has provided these corporations a perfectly anonymous way through which to launder their unpopular, anti-99%, anti-middle class political agendas. How’s that eggnog tasting now?
Chamber’s Partisan, Self-Serving Policies Scaring Away Local Chambers, Large Corporations and the 99%
Posted by Lauren Levenstein on November 01, 2011
Local chambers, major corporations, and community members have continued the “great migration” away from the U.S. Chamber’s partisanship this fall. Even in an off-election year, major news publications have covered local chambers quitting the U.S. Chamber or distancing from it; a major corporation cutting ties with the Chamber; and hundreds of ordinary citizens standing outside the Chamber’s DC headquarters, reminding America that the Chamber only works for the 1% and supports the very policies that got the 99% into an economic boondoggle at he behest of Wall Street firms. The truth about the U.S. Chamber is scaring once-supportive members and citizens away in droves. Beware of the Chamber’s lies.
Local Chambers Say “R.I.P.” to their U.S. Chamber Membership
October 2011: Asheville NC Chamber Left U.S. Chamber, Said it was “Distraction” From Goals. According to the Mountain Express, in late October 2011, the Asheville Chamber of Commerce in North Carolina was “no longer associated with the U.S. Chamber.” According to the Mountain Express, the local chamber’s website indicated “The Asheville Chamber is a non-partisan organization focused on job creation. We find the discussion of membership in the US Chamber to be a distraction from that goal. Therefore, it was the staff’s recommendation that we not renew our membership with the US Chamber as of October 2011.” [Mountain Express, 10/28/11; Asheville Citizen Times, 10/30/11]
October 2011: Newton-Needham MA Chamber of Commerce “Parts Ways with U.S. Chamber.” In October 2011, the Needham Times reported that the Newton-Needham Chamber of Commerce, located in Massachusetts “is cutting ties with the U.S. Chamber after local member businesses expressed a concern over a perceived political right wing slant by the national organization.” Netwon-Needham Chamber President Bob Halpin said, “If [Chamber members] want political access then there are many ways that they can individually join a political organization. While we advocate for business, we are not a political organization…It was really not something that we felt was adding to what we’re trying to do for our members locally, which is to help them be more successful in business, drive revenue and network.” [Needham Times, 10/5/11]
September 2011: Homer AK Chamber Quit U.S. Chamber Over its Partisanship and High Membership Costs. In September 2011, as reported by the AP and NPR, the Homer Chamber of Commerce in Homer, Alaska announced that it was “dumping its affiliation with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over the national organization’s right-leaning platforms.” According to the AP, Monte Davis, Executive Director for the Homer Chamber “found a handful of local businesses that refused to join the chamber because of its affiliation with the U.S. Chamber, even though the national group is not a parent organization of local or state chambers as some believe. Davis brought up the issue before the Homer Chamber’s board of directors, who had addressed the idea before but retained membership. In their August vote, the board decided to sever ties with the U.S. Chamber.” [CBS News, 9/18/11; NPR, 9/30/11]
Yahoo! Severs Ties with U.S. Chamber
October 2011: “Yahoo! Quits Chamber of Commerce.” In mid-October 2011, Yahoo.com became the latest large corporation to sever its membership with the U.S. Chamber. According to the Hill, a statement by the company said, “As our membership renewal time neared and we reviewed our membership, we decided not to renew.” Also according to the Hill, “…it’s no secret that the Internet company and the chamber have at least one political conflict over a bill that would block overseas websites selling counterfeit goods, such as discount golf clubs and tax-free cigarettes. In the past several months, the chamber has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into a vigorous lobbying campaign in support of the legislation which would authorize the Justice Department to file a civil action against foreign websites ‘dedicated to infringing activities.’ The bill, introduced in May by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), has 31 co-sponsors.” [The Hill, 10/13/11]
Citizens Expose Chamber’s Tricks and True Mission to Treat the 1%
October 28, 2011: Washington Post: “Howard students support Occupy DC [March to U.S. Chamber]”
October 6, 2011: CNN.com: “Hundreds in Washington decry U.S.-led wars, economic woes”
October 6, 2011: NBC Washington: “Raw Video: Veterans Join Occupy DC Protest Near White House”
The Institute for Legal Reform: The Chamber’s Corporate Conduit (Updated Weblink)
Click Here for Report (**Updated weblink**)
When it comes to the U.S. Chamber, nothing really is as it seems. On the day of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform’s (ILR) 2011 annual summit – U.S. Chamber Watch released a report showing that the ILR has grown into an elite lobbying arm of the Chamber, serving the needs of its biggest corporate members and their executive pocketbooks. Our report explains how the Chamber has taken the ILR far beyond its mandate as an advocate for legal or tort reform. And no one better to confirm our findings than Minority Leader John Boehner, who spoke at today’s ILR Summit (along with Republican Governors Nikki Haley (R-SC) and Bob McDonnell (R-VA)) where, according to ABC News, he “did not specifically address tort or any kind of legal reform.”
The ILR has lobbied on a litany of controversial issues, from pushing Congress to make it easier for corporations to bribe foreign officials by gutting the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, to slowing the implementation of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and opposing political spending disclosure requirements from companies that have contracts with the federal government. The ILR has contributed millions to Republican political operations, and has even gotten into the newspaper business in five states and online, publishing “legal records” that perpetuate its pro-tort reform agenda with scant traces of the Chamber’s ownership.
As revealed in the report, the Institute’s original $500,000 starter funds in 1998 have grown into a $40 million annual operation, funded by a handful of exceptionally large contributions from the biggest corporations in America. While the identities of the donors themselves are never disclosed a superficial glance at the ILR’s Board offers insight: the Board includes representatives from the pharmaceutical, financial and insurance industries.
Presumably, these industries are represented in themore than 60 percent of ILR funding that comes in increments of $1 million or more. And that is what’s most remarkable about the ILR’s just 436 contributions in the last 6 years: all of them are very large. More than 80 percent of the Institute’s funding comes from donors who give at least $500,000; the average contribution is well above this figure. Unlike the U.S. Chamber itself, the Institute makes no claims about their funding base as indicating a broad measure of support; then again, the Institute rarely has need to discuss its funding, or its operations in general.
If the Chamber is a black box in terms of its political disclosure, the Institute for Legal Reform is the black box inside that black box. Similar to how the Chamber allows corporations to anonymously pursue their lobbying agendas by funneling money through the Chamber (which in turn does the dirty work for these corporations), increasingly, the Institute for Legal Reform allows the Chamber to anonymously pursue efforts that it wishes to keep out of the press, in a different pool of money.
Not surprisingly, the ILR has occasionally merited investigations for its unsavory-and potentially unlawful-political operations. In this report, we shed light on the operations of this secretive and aggressive operation, including a deeper look into its funding sources, how it’s evolved from its original mission into a lobbying giant of its own, and what’s next for the Institute.