The U.S. Chamber’s Corporate Takeover of the Courts
Perhaps the most infamous Supreme Court decision of 2010, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, fundamentally altered the landscape of our elections by allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections.
But Citizens United wasn’t the only case that resulted in a playing field tilted toward corporate interests. Nor was it the only case the U.S. Chamber of Commerce weighed in an on – and won.
This week, New York Times’ Adam Liptak examines a series of reports that show that the U.S. Chamber, through its National Litigation Center, is having an extraordinary degree of success at the Supreme Court. Carter G. Phillips, who often represents the Chamber, said in 2007, “except for the solicitor general representing the United States, no single entity has more influence on what cases the Supreme Court decides and how it decides them than the National Chamber Litigation Center.”
The Chamber exercises influence first in swaying the Court on which cases it will hear at all. Though the odds of obtaining Supreme Court review are about one in 100, “the chamber has succeeded about 30 percent of the time in persuading the Roberts court to take its cases,” something Chamber lawyer Robin Conrad calls “a return on investment, not to sound too crass.”
It sounds a little crass when you consider that when the U.S. Chamber is earning a return on behalf of the investment of its largest corporate funders, it is limiting access to the courts by victims of discrimination and other wrongful discharge, allowing companies to pollute with impunity, and decreasing protections against securities fraud – and that’s all just this term.
Just as the U.S. Chamber is enjoying a heady level of success in the other two branches of government, its record on the Court is jaw-dropping:
- The Chamber’s positions have prevailed 68 percent of the time in the Roberts court, compared with 56 percent in the last 11 years (with no personnel changes) of the Rehnquist court.
- The Roberts court has ruled for business interests 61 percent of the time, compared with 42 percent by all courts since 1953.
- According to the Constitutional Accountability Center, the conservative bloc of the Court favored the Chamber position 74% of the time, compared to 43% of the time for the moderate/liberal bloc – a difference nearly triple that of the Rehnquist and Burger Courts.
- Last term, the Chamber’s side won 13 of 16 cases. Six of those were decided with a majority vote of five justices, and five of those decisions favored the Chamber. (One of them was Citizens United).
- Next month, the court will hear arguments in 11 cases. The Chamber will file briefs in seven of them.
Doug Kendall of the Constitutional Accountability Center sums up the state of play at the Court: “This may be great news for the Chamber, which has won some sweeping victories in the Roberts Court, including Citizens United, but it is bad for the Court as an institution and for the nation as a whole.”
Heroes, Schmeroes: The Chamber Dumps 9/11 First Responders in Favor of Protecting Outsourcers
Give credit where credit’s due: The U.S. Chamber isn’t wishy-washy when it comes to the outsourcing of American jobs. Nope—they’re all in favor.
Just how strongly does the Chamber feel about the rights of wealthy CEOs to send jobs overseas? Strongly enough to abandon the health concerns of 9/11 first responder survivors. Yes, the U.S. Chamber, which just spent tens of millions of dollars to elect more members of the Party of Lincoln this fall, a party that repeatedly questions the patriotism of its opponents, are opposing a bill that would “cover medical expenses and compensation for first responders and survivors of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.”
Why would the Chamber oppose such a bill? In a September 2010 letter to Congress, the group lobbied against the “James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010” because of provisions that would have closed a tax loophole, thereby raising taxes on foreign companies doing business in the U.S., to pay for the bill’s implementation.
In other words, because it would’ve cracked down on outsourcing.
Once again, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, under the guise of its mom and pop, local chamber membership, went to bat to protect foreign companies and those who would ship jobs away. This time, it looks like they got a home run at the expense of our nation’s most treasured heroes.
The U.S. Chamber’s Highly Selective Worries About the Deficit: A Primer
As the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission produces its final report today, we at U.S. Chamber Watch expect the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to endorse it, citing worries about the deficit. Those supposed worries, of course, are highly spurious and ironic, given the deficit-busting policies the Chamber has spent millions lobbying for in the past and even today.
U.S. Chamber Spent Millions Lobbying for Policies That Would Increase Federal Deficit
US Chamber Strongly Backs Extension of Bush Tax Cuts, Which Would Add $36 Billion To Federal Deficit and Help Fewer Than 2 Percent of Small Business Owners. The Chamber has been very vocal in its support for extending the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest two percent of Americans. Despite all their rhetoric on deficits, extending the Bush tax cuts would add $36 billion to the deficit in 2011 alone. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, fewer than two percent of small businesses make enough to even file in the top two income tax brackets. [Washington Post, 8/12/10]
U.S. Chamber Spent Millions To Kill Health Care Reform That Would Reduce Budget Deficit By $138 Million. Backed by the health insurance industry, in 2009 and 2010 the U.S. Chamber spent over $26 million to kill health care reform, using scare tactics to claim it would increase the deficit. The Congressional Budget Office actually found that the Affordable Care Act would reduce the deficit by $138 million by 2019. [ABC News, 8/14/09; National Journal, 1/30/10; CBS News, Congressional Budget Office, 3/18/10]
U.S. Chamber Opposed Deficit-Reducing Bill to Cap Carbon Emissions. In June 2009, the U.S. Chamber “expressed opposition” to H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, calling it “an unrealistic approach” and “job-killing.” The Chamber also said the bill “could further harm the economy.” According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Congressional Budget Office found that “the legislation fully complies with ‘pay-as-you-go’ budgeting rules and does not increase the federal deficit.” Under CBO scoring, in fact, the legislation would have reduced the deficit by $24 billion over 10 years. [U.S. Chamber Press Release, 6/26/09; Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Press Release, 6/25/09, CBO blog, 6/5/09]
Beyond the $86 Million Buyout: What Else We Found in the Chamber’s 990s
The Chamber received 83% of its funding in 2009 from contributors that gave $100,000 or more.
The largest contribution the U.S. Chamber received in 2009 was an $86.2 million contribution to fight health care reform. The contribution accounted for 42% of the total contributions the U.S. Chamber took in 2009. [US Chamber of Commerce 990; Bloomberg News, 11/17/10]
The U.S. Chamber received another 15 contributions of $1 million or more. This represented another 13% of its total contributions.
The U.S. Chamber received another 64 contributions of between $250,000 and $1 million, which equals another 14% of their contributors.
The U.S. Chamber received another 229 contribution of between $100,000 and $250,000, which accounted for another 14% of their total.
The Health Insurance industry’s contribution masked what would have otherwise been declining contributions to the Chamber. Without the $86.2 million infusion of cash from the insurance industry, the Chamber’s revenue from contributions would have declined by $20 million.
The Chamber’s total contributions increased by 47%, or $65,510,166 dollars from 2008 to 2009.
However, without $86.2 million contribution to the Chamber from the health insurance industry, the Chamber’s contributions would have declined by 15%, or over $20 million.
Click here to download memo with this information.
The U.S. Chamber’s 2010 Transformation: From Voice of Business to GOP Lapdog
Before the books are closed on the 2010 midterm elections, we’ll have seen something unprecedented: an election that was, more than any previous, bought and sold by big corporations for the sole purpose of tightening their grip on the legislative agenda in Congress. Instrumental in making that happen was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who this cycle completed their transformation from an organization that once spoke for mainstream business to an utter lapdog for the Republican Party and a handful of wealthy CEOs—in word, deed and multi-million dollar check.
A report issued from U.S. Chamber Watch breaks down the influence the nation’s largest lobbying organization had on this month’s elections, and finds that “as the primary vehicle for the laundering of anonymous corporate political spending, the U.S. Chamber was a formidable force in this year’s elections. But as a central player in developing the nexus of third party groups that spent hundreds of millions of dollars in undisclosed corporate money on behalf Republican candidates, it became a game-changer.”
Let’s look at the numbers: The Chamber pledged to spend $75 million this election cycle, an increase of approximately 40 percent from their contributions in 2008, a presidential year. More striking than the amount, however, was the homogenous nature of where it was deployed: 93 percent of the Chamber’s substantial coffers went to support Republican candidates and (more typically) attack Democrats, often in demonstrably false ads.
The Chamber worked to create an appearance of bipartisanship, by endorsing one Democratic Senate candidate (West Virginia’s Joe Manchin) and spending on behalf of eleven House Democrats. It was a fig leaf effort, of course. The U.S. Chamber Watch study finds that in the cases where the Chamber supported Democratic candidates, they spent on average only 18 percent as much as they did in races where they supported Republican candidates. In general, where the Chamber supported a Democrat, it ran ads in favor of that candidate (as opposed to attack ads on the candidate’s opponent which often have far greater impact). These positive ads were mostly rather cookie-cutter; a string of template ads released on or around the same day, with the same title for several different candidates, replacing the candidate’s name, picture and office number for each. Most candidates weren’t even that lucky; Manchin ran in one of the most competitive races in the country, yet the Chamber refused to spend even one penny to help out its beleaguered endorsee.
If you were a Democrat seeking the Chamber’s approval, all bets were off: the Chamber even broke its own established policy of supporting candidates who voted for their agenda more than 70 percent of the time. Colorado’s Betsy Markey received a 73 percent rating from the Chamber, yet was subject to a $250,000 onslaught in attack ads from them—helping to ensure her defeat.
The Chamber didn’t just become a partisan organization this year; it led the charge among the rest of the GOP-funded outside spenders, becoming the lead dog for strategy and implementation. By the summer of 2010, the U.S. Chamber and American Crossroads, after working to overcome some natural mistrust with other groups, persuaded the groups to coordinate on key electoral races. They were also able to coordinate with the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), working to expand the map initially laid out by the committee. Because of the Chamber’s work, Republicans this year were successful beyond their wildest dreams.
The Chamber claims to endorse any candidate who supports pro-business policies, and points to its token support of certain Democratic candidates as proof of its nonpartisanship. But a look at the U.S. Chamber’s spending and practices – from its coordination with exclusively right-wing groups, to its abandonment of some loyal Democrats and its lukewarm support for the Democrats it did endorse – clearly demonstrate that the U.S. Chamber is not the nonpartisan business league it claims to be. Whether for ideological reasons or simply because the largest corporations that fund the U.S. Chamber’s agenda have paid it to do so, the 2010 midterms have proven that the U.S. Chamber has bound itself to the Republican Party.
Read the complete report at www.fixtheuschamber.org
 Republican groups coordinated financial firepower. Politico, 11/3/10
Local CT Chamber to U.S. Chamber: “Don’t Pretend You Are Involved With the New Britain Chamber of Commerce”
Touchy, Touchy: Local chambers continue to feel a little defensive about their association with the U.S. Chamber’s woes this election cycle. Writes the president of the New Britain (Connecticut) Chamber:
“So that there is no more misunderstanding, the U.S., Chamber of Commerce is not the parent organization of the New Britain Chamber of Commerce. Never has been and I doubt, all things considered, that it ever will be.
Of course, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce never shares that with anyone, apparently willing to soak up the reflected light of the good reputation and accomplishments of local and regional Chambers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has always been a bit of an irritant but during the past couple of years, they’ve struck off on a new course, one in which they have transformed into a full-on partisan political organization. They have taken some controversial positions and have become partisans during the last two national elections…
And again, if the U.S. Chamber wants to represent one political party or another, one business sector over another, be my guest. Just don’t pretend you are involved with the New Britain Chamber of Commerce.”
S.C. Small Business Chamber Formally Supports U.S. Chamber Watch IRS Complaint
This week, Frank Knapp Jr., co-founder, President, and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, announced that on behalf his organization, he sent a letter to the IRS supporting U.S. Chamber Watch’s citizen’s complaint against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Knapp Jr. also filed a “declaration expressing support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate greenhouse gas” along with other agencies and organizations across the spectrum. The U.S. Chamber has been one of the leading opponents of the Environmental Protection Agency’s power and has filed lawsuit after lawsuit even challenging the EPA’s declaration that excess greenhouse gas is an environmental threat to humans.
Here is an excerpt of the letter to the IRS in support of our complaint:
On behalf of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, I am writing to urge you to take prompt action on the letter filed on October 18, 2010 by U.S. Chamber Watch, the Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and Corporate Ethics International. The letter describes a series of troubling transactions between the Starr Foundation, National Chamber Foundation (NCF), and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and raises serious questions about whether these organizations knowingly structured their dealings to facilitate the covert use of charitable funds for significant non-charitable purposes – including electioneering by the U.S. Chamber and the payment of excessive compensation to its CEO, Tom Donohue – in violation of the federal tax rules. Read more…
Read the rest of the post here.
U.S. Chamber Watch 2010 Electoral Scorecard
During the 2010 election cycle, the U.S. Chamber promised to spend up to $75 million in anonymous corporate cash to “change the composition” of Congress. More than 90% of the Chamber’s disclosed electoral spending went to Republicans. While the Chamber gave millions more to down ballot races (some reported, some unreported), see how they fared in the Congressional races by viewing our U.S. Chamber Watch 2010 Electoral scorecard available here.
U.S. CHAMBER WATCH TO SPEAKER-ELECT BOEHNER: LISTEN TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, NOT CORPORATIONS
Washington, DC—Today, U.S. Chamber Watch released the statement of spokesman Christy Setzer on the results of last night’s elections:
“Today, Speaker-Elect John Boehner pledged to ‘listen to the American people’ as he and the new Republican leadership craft an agenda to move our country forward. We sincerely hope he does. Unfortunately, all indications are that Boehner—pegged as a ‘Chamber of Commerce Republican’ for his allegiance to his wealthy corporate backers—will continue down the path notably seen during this current Congress, when Republicans voted in lockstep with the corporate interests funding their lobbying agenda—and ultimately their campaigns.
“The US Chamber of Commerce– and the biggest 26 corporations who fund its agenda– poured an unprecedented $75 million into elections this cycle to take out Democrats who voted for historic health care legislation, Wall Street reform, and other efforts to help small businesses. In the Democrats’ place, the Chamber invested tens of millions of dollars in candidates who will be beholden to corporate special interests. Because of their efforts, Rand Paul, who the Chamber spent more than $1.2 million to elect, can now help out the big banks as he votes to privatize Social Security. Marco Rubio will have the backs of insurance companies, as he casts votes to repeal health care. And members like Joe Heck in Nevada will be thinking fondly about the Chamber’s top CEOs as he votes to extend the Bush tax cuts.
“Mr. Speaker, it’s clear that your new Members will be listening to Big Business. We can only hope they’re listening just as hard to the regular people among us.”
# # #
U.S. Chamber Watch Election 2010 Scorecard Available Here
U.S. Chamber in the Courts
Two important studies highlight the need to monitor the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s activities in the state and federal courts.
Today, the American Association for Justice (AAJ) released a report, “The Chamber Litigation Machine: How the Chamber Uses Lawsuits to Keep Americans out of Court.” While many are focusing on the U.S. Chamber’s outsized political game this election season, the report focuses on the Chamber’s efforts undermine national and state judiciaries.
The Chamber’s favorite tool is to reduce access to the courts. As the AAJ report explains:
The Chamber’s surfeit of litigation has come on behalf of the same large multinational corporations that provide the organization with hundreds of millions of dollars in tax deductible membership dues. The boards of the Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform and National Chamber Litigation Center are composed entirely of large, multinational corporations that want to undermine and eliminate America’s civil justice system so they won’t be held accountable for their misconduct.
The report details the Chamber’s work on behalf of polluters, tobacco companies, Wall Street and big employers in limiting the rights of access for those who are injured through the fault of these companies.
The Chamber does more than reduce access to the courts; it also works to substantively alter the playing field between the huge corporations it represents and the average American. It had a resounding success with the Citizens United case this year, in which the Supreme Court removed restrictions on corporate campaign spending.
But the Chamber is enjoying a high level of success at our nation’s highest court across a breadth of issues areas. The Constitutionality Accountability Center just released a study concluding that from 1981 to 1986 the U.S. Chamber of Commerce won less than half its cases at the Supreme Court, but that it has won two-thirds over the past five years. The Center argues that “the Supreme Court’s modern pro-corporate tilt — and particularly its sharp ideological split in favor of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — are relatively new developments, traceable to the court’s current conservative majority.”
The Constitutionality Accountability Center warns those monitoring the Chamber to take heed of its campaign to undermine the courts, “because while the success of the Chamber’s attempt to influence the mid-term election remains to be seen, we already know that the Chamber’s decades-long effort to influence the judiciary has been a resounding success.”
Will the Last Local Chamber Standing Please Turn Out the Lights? Exodus Continues.
In what is becoming a sort of “will the last local Chamber standing please turn out the lights?” situation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s partisan political activity has caused even more local chambers of commerce to distance themselves.
You may remember, recently, when the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce in New Hampshire and the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce in North Carolina distanced themselves, or when two members left the board of the California Chamber of Commerce. In the last 48 hours alone, chambers from Kansas, Maine and Wisconsin have taken pains to say, “We’re NOT the U.S. Chamber.”
In Kansas City: “The Greater Kansas City Chamber isn’t affiliated with the U.S. Chamber…it’s not us.”
In a note to the Kansas City Star, Jim Hector, the president and CEO of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce wrote the following:
“We’ve gotten a lot of questions and we appreciate the concern (and the jokes), but it’s the U.S. Chamber that is facing allegations of using foreign money in campaign contributions, not the Greater Kansas City Chamber. There’s a difference…The U.S Chamber, the Greater Kansas City Chamber, and local chambers are all separate organizations with their own boards, bylaws, and public policy positions. The Greater Kansas City Chamber isn’t affiliated with the U.S. Chamber. Our focus is on civic progress for our two-state region. We do sincerely thank you for your concern – but it’s not us.”
In Maine: “We don’t take positions on national issues.”
In Maine, the directors of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Belfast Chamber of Commerce, and the Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville Chamber of Commerce told the Free Press that they were not members of the U.S. Chamber. Dan Bookham, the executive director of the Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville Chamber of Commerce said, “Our position is that we don’t take positions on national issues. It’s a matter of practicality. We have a diverse membership of 600 people, from tea-partiers to Marxists. It would just cause disruptions and arguments in the business community.”
Even local chambers that are members of the national organization have distanced themselves from the Chamber’s political activity. Jaimie Logan, the executive director of the Boothbay Harbor Chamber of Commerce, which pays $300 a year in membership dues to the U.S. Chamber, said, “We don’t endorse candidates or advocate for referendums. We provide information to our members, pro and con, and then they decide. The U.S. Chamber provides business information tools that are useful, but we don’t take a political stance.”
In Madison, Wisconsin: “We’re not here to fight their battles.”
And in Madison, Wisconsin, Delores Newton, executive vice president of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, explained that while her chamber is a member of the U.S. Chamber – paying about $700 in dues – “‘Absolutely no penny is spent on politics,’ says Newton, adding that the local chamber doesn’t vote on the parent group’s positions. ‘We do not have a PAC. It would be illegal to spend member dues for or against a candidate. So we do not do that…We’re not here to fight their battles.’”
NY Times: Biggest Funders Dictate Chamber Agenda
Posted By Dennis Yedwab
In its lead story today, the New York Times begins to remove the veil of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s fundraising, revealing how it lobbies on behalf of its larger contributors. Among the key points of the story:
The U.S. Chamber receives large donations to lobby on behalf of its biggest funders
- “Prudential Financial sent in a $2 million donation last year as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce kicked off a national advertising campaign to weaken the historic rewrite of the nation’s financial regulations.” A Prudential spokesperson confirmed that, though the donation was not earmarked for a specific purpose, “I am not suggesting it is a coincidence” that the donation came as the Chamber engaged in this campaign, he stated.
- “Dow Chemical delivered $1.7 million to the chamber last year as the group took a leading role in aggressively fighting proposed rules that would impose tighter security requirements on chemical facilities.”
- “And Goldman Sachs, Chevron Texaco, and Aegon, a multinational insurance company based in the Netherlands, donated more than $8 million in recent years to a chamber foundation that has been critical of growing federal regulation and spending.”
- Many of the Chamber’s large donations coincided with Chamber campaigns that were the priorities of those donors.
The US Chamber’s biggest funders provide a disproportionate share of its revenue
- According to the New York Times, nearly half of the Chamber’s $140 million in contributions in 2008 came from just 45 donors.
The Chamber defends its lack of disclosure
- According to Bruce Josten, the Chamber’s top lobbyist, the Chamber is justified in shielding disclosure because it shields donors from potential protests from unpopular campaigns.
- The New York Times story continues to reveal the Chamber’s pathological opposition to disclosure while confirming that it operated on behalf of its largest donors– not business as a whole.
SEIU to WaPo: Don’t Compare Chamber Political Spending to Union Political Spending
Yesterday, Jon Youngdahl, National Political Director of the SEIU wrote a letter to the editor of the Washington Post, in which he pointed to the continued distorted comparison of political spending by labor unions to the political spending of “shadowy” organizations “that have sprung up in the wake of…Citizens United.” Youndahl reemphasized the key difference between labor union political spending and the U.S. Chamber’s political spending: DISCLOSURE.
“Most of the political work of the Service Employees International Union is funded by about 300,000 janitors, nurses’ aides, child-care providers and other members who voluntarily contribute on average $7 per month to SEIU’s Committee on Political Education (COPE).”…
“Here’s the irony: Anyone who wants to know where SEIU political dollars come from can go on the Internet and check out the detailed public reports all unions and their political action committees are required to file with the Federal Election Commission and the U.S. Labor Department.”
Youngdahl clarified that “foreign” money is NOT being spent by SEIU on political campaigns:
“Money from SEIU’s Canadian members pays for Canadian programs for workers. It is not used on U.S. political campaigns.”
And in summation he wrote:
“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the shadowy 527 and 501 (c)(4) groups that have sprung up in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, are conduits for vast sums of undisclosed corporate money that threaten our democracy. We are a union of working people, and the money we spend on politics is money donated by workers.”
Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
The Real Red Herring
In recent weeks, the public and its leaders have been closely scrutinizing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber is the target of an investigation into the possible use of charitable funds for political purposes, and now many are calling on the Chamber to prove the foreign funds it collects and deposits in its general accounts aren’t used to influence our elections.
Pretty serious stuff, and it would be nice if the U.S. Chamber would take it seriously.
But rather than shed light on its top-secret activities, the Chamber pulls out the tried-and-true “attack” playbook. Let’s take a look.
The U.S. Chamber’s M.O.
1. Attack the Messenger – Preferably by describing it as a left-wing bogeyman.
– U.S. Chamber Watch, which filed the IRS complaint raising questions about possible tax abuses, is “a front group that “oppose[s] free enterprise.”
– Think Progress, which reported on the Chamber’s solicitation of foreign funds, is “a George Soros-funded, anti-business blog.”
2. Claim that Any and All Investigations are Attempts to Distract the Feeble-minded Voter (Who should just be lapping up the millions of dollars worth of political ads the Chamber is feeding him).
– Calls for certification of campaign funds are “an attempt by some Washington politicians to distract, dodge, and deny their records.”
– Allegations are “unfounded, deceitful, and completely erroneous,” and “a diversion by people upset about their grim prospects in the upcoming election.”
3. Play the “Poor Me” Card. That’s a tough sell for the nation’s single largest private lobby, which outspends the next greatest group on the hill by a factor of five (and that group is Exxon Mobil – no slouch itself in the lobbying department). But the Chamber loves to label itself an underdog.
– Though its ties to conservative media powerhouse News Corp may afford it some leeway in the press, when confronted with allegations of wrong doing, the Chamber is a victim of “a smear campaign aided and abetted by the media.”
– Questions into the Chamber’s top-secret organization are designed to “intimidate the voice of free enterprise by making baseless allegations.”
– Legislation that would require groups to disclose the funders of political activity – answering the questions groups are asking about the Chamber’s financing once and for all – is an attempt to “take business and its representative organizations out of the advocacy process.”
4. Blame the Media
– Reiterate the false narrative that there is a “common view in the media that business is inherently suspect.”
– Though its ties to conservative media powerhouse News Corp may afford it some leeway in the press, when confronted with allegations of wrong doing, the Chamber is a victim of “a smear campaign aided and abetted by the media.”
- 5. Failing that, Blame the Big, Bad Unions.
– Claim that labor outspends business in elections. In fact, this election cycle, conservative groups wield a seven-to-one cash advantage against progressive groups. In 2008, the pattern held, with business groups far and away outspending other voices in election ads.
6. Spend More Money.
– Don’t let a little thing like serious ethical and legal questions interfere with your goal of taking power in Congress from continuing “full speed ahead.”
– Roll out unprecedented ad blitzes. The Chamber’s October plans are staggering – “in a year of big buys from outside groups, this one is the biggest one-week rollout yet.”
– Basically, drown out your opponents with wads of anonymous cash. Today, a Chamber said of the candidates it opposes, “If they didn’t like this week, they’re really going to hate the rest of October.”
7. Do Not, Repeat, Do Not Take the Concerns of Citizens Seriously.
– Without answering questions about your foreign funders, hold a meeting with them, as the Chamber planned to do with Bahraini bankers today.
The Chamber Chums it up with the Tea Party, Sarah Palin
Publicity over the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s questionable practices has earned the Chamber some new buddies – Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck.
Despite the Chamber’s repeated claims to be non-partisan and representative of small businesses, voices on the extreme right are lending the Chamber their support and the Chamber doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, ChamberPost bloggers are even thanking them.
Here’s a recap of the Chamber’s cozy relationship with the right wing:
Sarah Palin Attacked Obama’s Criticisms of the Chamber:
“If you believe in commerce and you’re called a chamber,” she said, “maybe that’s enough to get you on the White House enemy watch list.”
She added: “Did you ever think our White House would go to war with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce? The Chamber of Commerce isn’t a threat. … Who are they going to go after next? The Boy Scouts? The Girl Scouts? The way the White House talks, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is an international terrorist.”
Chamber Thanked Glenn Beck and His Listeners for Fundraising Appeal, Disclosing Some Fundraising Details in the Process (although it refuses to do so for anything else):
Yesterday, Glenn Beck urged listeners to his radio show to make a donation to the Chamber. He logged onto our site while on air and gave a $10,000 donation himself, to start the giving – and start an avalanche.
And what an avalanche it was. We can say with confidence that yesterday was the single largest day of online fundraising that we’ve ever had. Some details:
Almost 6,000 people made donations; We raised more than a quarter of a million dollars; Our server crashed!
So we just wanted to say thank you to Mr. Beck and his many loyal listeners who believe in our mission of protecting and advocating for the principles of free enterprise.
Chamber Bloggers Gave Shout Out to a RedState Blog Post Parodying the idea of Chamber Secretiveness. RedState touts itself as the “most widely read right of center blog on Capitol Hill,” and the “most often cited right of center blog in the media.” It says it “is widely considered one of the most influential voices of the grassroots on the right.” The site endorsed Florida senate candidate Marco Rubio, and frequently offers commentary supporting the tea party and tea party candidates. The Chamber revealed how chummy it is with RedState and got in on the joke, saying, “We expect this kind of stuff from the left, but from RedState?”
Glenn Beck to Chamber: $10,000; Chamber to Glenn Beck: “You Are Doing Great Work”
IRONY ALERT! Chamber “Fetish” Blogger Quits, Citing Work/Life Balance Issues
Today, U.S. Chamber Watch bids a fond farewell to Brad Peck, the infamous Chamber Post blogger who said that women who sought equal pay with their male counterparts were doing so out of a “fetish for money.”
It turns out that Peck had a little more inside knowledge about the “challenges” working parents face than we might have guessed: In a Chamber Post blog this week, Peck announced his final day at the Chamber, citing, hilariously, work/life balance issues.
Peck wrote the infamous Fetish post this summer, and immediately reaped the reward: he was excoriated for his rudimentary understanding of the challenges women face in the workplace, and for his glib advice that women “choose” the right jobs and the right partners, rather than complaining about “equality.”
He also disputed the notion that “the idea that giving up ‘pay and promotions’ is a ‘terribly steep price’ to pay for time away from work.” For some people, he said, giving up some pay or opportunity might net them “a lot” – of what, he didn’t elaborate.
But it turns out that Peck’s wife is not among those who are willing to forgo promotions and pay. In a somewhat confusing post last week, Peck bid adieu to Chamber Post to return to his “first love…middle management.” He explained that, a few years ago, he and his wife had “a problem” – deciding between jobs and kids. She had the opportunity to go partner track at her job, so they decided that Peck would be the one to make the career tradeoffs.
To make such tradeoffs, Peck needed a job with “flexibility, cooperation, productivity, mobility and markets,” and so he “pitched my boss on the idea of a blog a job as a blogger,” which allowed him to be both “flexible and available at the same time.”
Peck’s lesson du jour: What worked for him – flexibility, cooperation, productivity, mobility and markets – are “also right for our country.” He explains that “growth… can only be achieved by creating new markets and lowering barriers to existing ones.”
That’s pretty rich from a guy who seems to think that it is “individual choice” and not other barriers that create the wage gap. Look, we’re sincerely happy for Peck and his wife that they had high-powered jobs that allowed them to keep their careers and raise children too. But Peck is, once again, emblematic of the U.S. Chamber, and corporate culture at large. Because Peck’s situation worked out fabulously for him, he assumes that those who have a different track should fare as well, and if they don’t, they’ve made some bad personal choices for which there are no systemic contributing factors. We’d like to see some restaurant servers, or heck, even most middle-managers, ask to be reassigned to the “blog” section while they’re raising their kids.
The bottom line: Brad Peck, you’ll be missed by us. You said what the U.S. Chamber was thinking outright, frequently dripping with venom, but with little of the obfuscation that the Chamber’s been so fond of the past couple of weeks. Here’s hoping whoever shoulders your mantle at Chamber Post is similarly unabashed about their opinions.
Reports Reveal Extent of Strength, Coordination Among Right Wing Third Party Groups
American Rights at Work and People for the American Way have both recently issued reports that reveal not just the big players backing pro-corporate candidates in this Fall’s elections, but also how those players are working together.
People for the American Way’s report, After Citizens United, looks into groups that are thriving in the wake of the Supreme Court decision that granted corporations the same first amendment rights as people. PFAW examines: 60 Plus Association, American Action Network, American Crossroads & Crossroads GPS, American Future Fund, Americans for Job Security, Americans for New Leadership & Liberty.com, Americans for Prosperity, the Club for Growth and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to see how these groups have reacted to the increased ability of corporations to influence elections.
Of particular note from PFAW’s report:
While we do not know who is funding such organizations, we do know that the groups playing a larger role in the 2010 elections are overwhelmingly backing right-wing candidates. According to TIME¸ pro-Republican groups could spend as much as $300 million for the 2010 election. Many of the organizations almost exclusively supporting pro-corporate politicians never even have to report where their funding comes from. Corporate dollars are also financing many Tea Party and other conservative “grassroots” groups, giving “Astroturfing” an even more prominent role in American politics.
American Rights at Work (ARAW)’s report, Behind the Anti-Worker Agenda, focuses on six top third party players. It’s no coincidence that there’s heavy overlap in subject matter between the two reports: American Crossroads, Americans for Prosperity, The Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, and U.S. Chamber Watch’s favorite, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are the focus of ARAW’s report.
Of particular note in ARAW’s report: these groups have not just organically sprung from some grass roots sentiment, as they may like you to believe. ARAW says these groups are “working in tandem” with each other:
The National Journal reported that in April, Rove held an event at his home that included not only American Crossroads officials, but also former Senator Norm Coleman and Fred Malek, who run the American Action Network, a new non-profit trying to raise $25 million for pro-GOP advocacy ads. In addition, Bill Miller, the political director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was in attendance, and said his organization planned to raise $50 million for issue ads this year. The National Journal also noted that American Crossroads and American Action Network had moved into adjacent offices in Washington, D.C.
By combining their influence, corporate-friendly groups have gained a 7 to 1 edge over Democrats – more than making up for the DNC’s fundraising advantage over its Republican counterpart. In fact, these Republican-leaning outside groups spent more to sway the November congressional elections during September’s first four weeks than the two political parties combined, and the trend is slated to continue. Between now and Oct. 20, groups backing Republicans have $9.4 million worth of TV ads reserved across 40 districts, while organizations supporting Democrats have put down only $1.3 million in five districts. Some of these groups, like the U.S. Chamber and American Crossroads, have been spending huge sums of cash in key House and Senate races in a seemingly coordinated fashion: On the Senate side, the U.S. Chamber played first in New Hampshire, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Colorado. Then in all five states, as the Chamber left to unleash millions in California and Colorado, Crossroads GPS moved in to fill the Chamber’s void, spending its own millions.
As the Chamber broadly focuses on Senate races, others are focusing on the House. Americans for Job Security has reported spending about $4 million in House districts in Indiana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Further, Politico reports that some are pouring millions into long-shot House races once thought to be out of the GOP’s reach: “The outside organizations… are focused not on the most competitive races but, rather, on just-below-the-radar contests that the National Republican Congressional Committee doesn’t have the resources to compete in. The effect is to enable the NRCC to concentrate its dollars on the most winnable races without forgoing others that could break in the GOP’s favor in the event of a wave election.”
The upshot of these two reports: Not only did corporate dominance of politics receive a huge shot in the arm from the Supreme Court in Citizens United, but third party groups that allow corporations to anonymously fund political spending are working in concert to elect a pro-corporate Congress this Fall.
U.S. CHAMBER’S POLITICAL MONEY UNDER FIRE… AGAIN
Foreign donors scandal the latest in string of legal controversies involving Chamber’s $75 million political program
Washington, DC—A Think Progress report today suggesting that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce may have used foreign contributions to support its political operations is the latest in a string of scandals involving the lobbying giant’s use of money.
The Chamber and Fox News: The Price Is Right
Posted by Lauren Levenstein on October 01, 2010
The door to the U.S. Chamber’s “shadow RNC” operation was kicked open just an inch more yesterday when Ben Smith of Politico reported that News Corp, the parent company of conservative leaning Fox News, gave one million dollars to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over the summer and has given even larger sums to the Chamber in the past for “general business advocacy.” We already know that Fox helps alleviate the Chamber’s financial problems by renting its roof, but how else is Fox helping the Chamber advance its agenda? What could the Chamber buy with Fox’s million? It’s time to play the Price is Right!
With News Corps’ Million…
U.S. Chamber Could Have Bought…
…Its Attack Ad Against Charlie Crist. The U.S. Chamber’s ad buy against Charlie Crist in FL cost $1 million. Florida Inpendent blog also noted the connection. [Federal Elections Commission Report]
…Its Attack Ads In CO, KY, and IN. The U.S. Chamber’s ad buy against Michael Bennet in CO cost $250,000; It’s ad buy against Jack Conway in KY was $500,000, and its ad buy against Brad Ellsworth in Indiana was $250,000. [Federal Elections Commission Report]
…Attacks on Robin Carnahan in MO, Joe Sestak in PA, Paul Hodes in NH, and Michael Bennet in CO. The U.S. Chamber’s ad buy against Robin Carnahan in MO cost $324,640, while its ads attacking Joe Sestak in PA totaled $203,176. In NH, the Chamber’s ad attacking Paul Hodes cost $322,579 and its ads against Michael Bennet in CO cost $147,763. [Federal Elections Commission Report]
U.S. Chamber Could Be Helping Fox Crush Robin Carnahan in MO…
The Chamber Spent $324,640 on ads against MO Democratic Senate candidate Robin Carnahan and endorsed her Republican opponent Congressman Roy Blunt. Incidentally, Fox News is currently suing Carnahan for using footage in one her ads that makes is “appear – falsely – that FNC and Christopher Wallace” are endorsing Carnahan. Coincidence? [Federal Elections Commission Report; Washington Post, 9/21/10]
U.S. Chamber’s Cozy Relationship with Fox News
U.S. Chamber Rents Roof to Fox News To Alleviate Financial Problems. In July 2010, ThinkProgress’ Lee Fang wrote, “In a profile piece on U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donohue, the Washington Monthly’s James Verini…notes that the Chamber has alleviated part of its financial problem by earning ‘extra income’ through renting its roof to Fox News for the network’s White House news coverage…by quietly bringing Fox News into his business strategy, Donohue and the executives at Fox News are blurring the lines between media and lobbying. While it is unclear exactly how long Fox News has been a business partner to the Chamber, Fox News has aggressively defended the Chamber during the Obama presidency.” [ThinkProgress, 7/9/10]
September 2009: Fox News’ Glenn Beck and Tom Donohue Were Keynote Speakers At Michigan and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Forum. According to ThinkProgress, in September 2009, Glenn Beck and U.S. Chamber President Tom Donohue were keynote speakers at the 2009 Future Forum held at Michigan State University’s Kellogg Center sponsored by the U.S. Chamber, the Michigan Chamber, and several large corporations such as Comcast and AT&T. [ThinkProgress, 9/11/09]
Fox News Mocked Activist Group’s Call for A Reward For Information Leading to Arrest of Tom Donohue. In December 2009, activist group StopTheChamber.com launched a campaign offering “a $200,000 reward for insider information leading to the arrest and conviction of Tom Donohue…” In response, a Fox News article featured a picture with Tom Donohue’s picture on an old fashioned looking “Reward” poster that read “Hunted by the Left, Bounty Put on Head of Chamber Boss.” [Huffington Post, 12/14/09]