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Archived Blogs June 2011

The Chamber’s jobs summit? Or its Irony Summit?

In case you missed it, today the US Chamber held a “jobs summit” with six Governors. Forgive us for not being impressed. In light of the Chamber’s record of shedding, not creating jobs in America, our spokeswoman Christy Setzer said today:

“The US Chamber isn’t holding a Jobs Summit so much as an Irony Summit. The fact is, the US Chamber and their board members are the greatest sources of job loss in America—whether that’s through their outsourcing of millions of American jobs overseas, through their support for policies on Wall Street that collapsed our economy, or through their utter assault on the policies like health care reform and climate change legislation that would create millions of new jobs.


“By protecting their CEO buddies, the Chamber’s policies and actions have crashed our economy, sent our jobs overseas, and halted job creation legislation that’s so desperately needed on Main Street.”

Here are some quick stats on big Chamber corporations that have cut jobs or sent them overseas:

Some of the Most Important U.S. Chamber Companies Have, In Fact, Shed Jobs in the United States Rather Than Create Them. General Electric, a member of the board of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), has cut 32,000 since 2004, while another ILR board member, Honeywell, has dropped 7000 jobs during the same period.   Eastman Kodak, which sits on the Board of the U.S. Chamber, has reduced its domestic workforce by 19,600, while pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, which gave at least $150,000 to the U.S. Chamber from 2007-2009, dropped 6350 domestic jobs. [Employment data from 10K’s filed by each company with the SEC available at]

By the Numbers:

  • 63,000: Number of Jobs IBM shipped overseas, IBM is on the Chamber board
  • 15,000: Number of Jobs Siemens shipped overseas, Siemens is a member of the Chamber
  • 13,000: Number of Jobs Accenture overseas, Accenture is also a member of the Chamber board
  • 10,426: Number of Jobs Intel shipped overseas, Intel paid more than $286,000 annually in dues to the Chamber

[credit: Center for American Progress]

Chamber’s Litigation Arm Wins One For Wal-Mart and Corporate Dominance

Today, the U.S. Chamber “applauded” the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of Wal-Mart in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, a class action suit against the company by millions of women who claimed the company fostered gender discriminatory policies.  It’s no secret why the Chamber’s National Litigation Center (NCLC) was clapping so loudly: Its support for the company has been vocal and consistent. The Chamber submitted two amicus briefs to the Supreme Court and several briefs in the lower courts in support of the low-cost giant, and released many statements of support.  On the contrary, it is a secret how much Wal-Mart – and/or other large multi-national corporations – might have given the Chamber for it to fight this case and use its charm with the Roberts business-friendly court.

Although the Supreme Court’s decision has major implications for employees from marginalized groups and their future ability to challenge corporate wrongdoing, this case was about whether or not the size of the class bringing the gender discrimination suit against Wal-Mart was too large.  The NCLC was intent on both killing the suit, which could have cost Wal-Mart billions, and further destroying the ability of employees to keep their big corporate employers accountable.  As Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center put it:

“The Court has told employers that they can rest easy, knowing that the bigger and more powerful they are, the less likely their employees will be able to join together to secure their rights.”

Once again, the Chamber touts its support for job creation, but shows that it cares little about the individuals who hold those jobs, whether it be their quality or life, workplace safety, or right to take legal actions against an employer.  The Chamber’s goal– and for today, a winning one– is corporate dominance without corporate accountability. Their success will be a loss not just for the women of Wal-Mart but for workers across America.

Anniver-sorries and Apologies: The Chamber’s Joe Barton Moment

Today marks the one year anniversary of the Apology Heard ‘Round the World: Texas Republican Congressman Joe Barton’s apology to BP in the wake of the worst environmental disaster in history. Yet Barton wasn’t the only high-profile official feeling sorry for BP last year.  In fact, when U.S. Chamber President Tom Donohue infamously told the Christian Science Monitor that the American taxpayer should pitch in on the oil spill clean-up, Congressional leaders stood up and followed suit.

Donohue told the Monitor:

“I would like to do the surgery after we get the diagnosis, you know. Everybody is going to contribute to this cleanup. We are all going to have to do it…. We are going to have to get the money from the government and from the companies, and we will figure out a way to do that.”

This statement became John Boehner’s line on BP as well– one for which the Speaker suffered a significant backlash. Donohue didn’t exactly fare better– Gulf Coast chambers of commerce immediately distanced themselves from his comments.  Don Moliterno, president of the Walton Area Chamber of Commerce chastised, “To say that we as taxpayers should spend more is just wrong.” Mother Jones went on to highlight “5 Ways the Chamber Shills for BP,” clear evidence that Donohue and the Chamber were doing more than just apologizing to BP for their corporate hardship, but also lobbying to ease restrictions and rules that would have prevented future disasters and provided justice to the victims of the spill.

At that same Christian Science Monitor breakfast, about a month before Barton’s apology to BP, Tom Donohue had a similar moment, when he explained that he was sick and tired of how the media and the American public were just beating up on CEOs, whether they be from big banks, the health insurance industry, or Big Oil:

“I am personally troubled about the way we have been treating not only business leaders but – let’s go there – bankers, people that run health-care companies, people that run oil companies. They are being hauled up to the Congress … and beat up like unruly children for the TV cameras.”

On today’s “Anniver-sorry” of Joe Barton’s apology, let us remind the American public that the U.S. Chamber is the ultimate apologist for corporate America or as Donohue terms it, “the reinsurance industry.”  When a corporation is “being overrun” as he explained, the Chamber “builds coalitions and [goes] out and helps them.”  That’s right – the Chamber will keep the big corporations from being accountable to their employees, customers, and the American people – and they’re not sorry about that.

“We’ll Get Rid of You”: Donohue’s Mob Boss Language Scares the Frosh

This week, during a speech to the Atlanta Rotary Club, U.S. Chamber President Tom Donohue dug himself into a rhetorical hole when he warned freshmen Republican Congressmen who opposed raising the debt ceiling, “We’ll get rid of you.” Not surprisingly, Members of Congress weren’t thrilled. According to Politico, Kansas freshman GOP Rep. Tim Huelskamp said, “This is typical Washington, D.C., insider politics. The idea that head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would rather pick fight with the 87 freshmen than with Democrats, that’s pretty disappointing.”  And as Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent put it, “He seems to be joking, but man, that is one telling joke.”

And how. Donohue’s comment was just the latest in a string of “Godfather”-esque messages, telling not just of his mob boss leadership style, but also of the real agenda he has set for the U.S. Chamber: corporate intimidation and domination.

Here’s our Top 5 favorite “Tom Donohue: Mob Boss” quotes.

  • “We plan to build a grass-roots business organization so strong that when it bites you in the butt, you bleed.” – Tom Donohue, President, U.S. Chamber [LA Times, 1/8/08]
  • “We will use every tool at our disposal to challenge those who try to silence our voice.” – Tom Donohue, President, U.S. Chamber [Washington Post, 1/11/11]
  • “…You think we are going to blink because a couple of people are out shooting at us? Tell ’em to put their damn helmets on.” – Tom Donohue, President, U.S. Chamber [Wall Street Journal, 10/23/09]
  • This is a great place. If you walk on our lawn, we’re going to turn on the sprinklers.” – Tom Donohue, President, U.S. Chamber [Wall Street Journal, 10/23/09]
  • “Stop Whining,” U.S. Chamber President Tom Donohue told the unemployed in reference to jobs lost due to outsourcing. [AP, 7/5/04]

And in a bonus quote that’s telling of the respect the Chamber president holds for the current Speaker of the House, Donohue said that John Boehner, whom the Chamber had exclusively interviewed for its Free Enterprise Magazine in January, was “growing into his shorts…. He’s put on his big boy pants.”

It sure makes for colorful quotes, but as the latest episode at the Rotary Club shows, Donohue’s mob boss style isn’t winning him many friends.

Chamber Lobbies to Weaken Foreign Bribery Laws

Yesterday, one of the Chamber’s newest high-profile lobbyists and former Bush-era Attorney General Michael Mukasey testified in a hearing on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which the Chamber hopes to weaken.  According to Joan McCarter in Daily Kos, “The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FPCA) is intended to stop U.S.-based multinational corporations from bribing foreign governments.”  A group of pro-FCPA foundations and organizations, including Tax Justice Network, Global Financial Integrity, and Open Society Foundation, explained that the FCPA, adopted in 1977, “(a) requires companies to maintain accurate and detailed books and records, and (b) criminalizes the offer, payment or promise to pay money or anything else of value to a foreign official in order to obtain or retain business (what we generally refer to as bribery).” In advance of the hearing, Heather Lowe, Global Financial Integrity’s legislative affairs director and legal affairs council said,

“The Chamber’s proposed changes would seriously undermine one of the most important anti-corruption statues we have on the books…. This is a blatant attempt by the business lobby to limit accountability and reduce a company’s risk of prosecution for paying bribes.   It is a real threat to global efforts to stamp out corruption and foster economic development.”

So in a nutshell, the U.S. Chamber has paid Mr. Mukasey’s firm $10,000 so far (2011 1st quarter filings) to make it easier for U.S. companies to bribe foreign governments all because the Chamber claims, according to the Blog of Legal Times, that the law “could be making U.S. companies less competitive.”  It’s anyone’s guess which Chamber company or companies are funding Mukasey’s work.  Maybe Chamber board member Siemens, which had to pay a $1.34 billion fine after an audit of its company revealed serious corruption?  Or maybe it’s Chamber board member IBM, which paid $10 million in March 2011 to settle a bribery complaint?

Chamber companies are not the only ones potentially benefitting from the Chamber’s work on this issue. According to Media Matters Action Network, GOP Representative Lamar Smith, who held the hearing today, basically ripped all of his recommendations for amending the FCPA from a Chamber report published in April 2011.  And that’s how easily the Chamber’s corporate policies go from white paper to Republican agenda. Let’s hope bribery doesn’t become that easy as a result.

Tax Repatriation is No Way to Create Jobs, Just CEO Profits

Today, the bi-partisan think tank, Third Way, is holding a forum to discuss the merits of a tax repatriation holiday that, in theory, is supposed to help corporations with overseas subsidiaries invest more money domestically by giving them tax breaks on their foreign profits.  As revealed in a U.S. Chamber Watch report, tax repatriation, which the U.S. Chamber supports, has done more for the salaries of Chamber member CEOs than for domestic job creation or economic stimulation.

As laid out in our report, a similar tax repatriation holiday in 2004 did not create jobs in the U.S. but rather created windfall profits for its CEOs.  Several of the Chamber companies that repatriated their earnings actually cut jobs.  And overall, the tax repatriation holiday was more like “backdoor compensation” for corporations’ executives than an open door for job creation.

In anticipation of the forum, we thought the time was ripe to revisit the main findings of our report – that a tax repatriation holiday is really nothing but another cash bonus for top CEOs and a bigger bite out of the growing deficit.

  • 2004 Tax Repatriation Holiday Did Not Create Jobs. Despite claims by the U.S. Chamber to the contrary, the tax repatriation holiday in 2004 did not create jobs in the United States.  Instead, it created an estimated windfall of well over $250 million for the CEOs of U.S. Chamber companies who benefitted from stock buybacks after the repatriation.
  • In 2004, 22 of 105 Top Companies That Repatriated Were Chamber Members and they Raked in Over $133 Billion.  Of the top 105 companies that repatriated earnings, 22 have direct ties to the U.S. Chamber or its affiliates. These companies repatriated over $133 billion in earnings.
  • Repatriating Companies Did Not Create Jobs, Some Chamber Companies Actually Cut Jobs. Not only did repatriating companies not create jobs, some even cut jobs in the United States.  Five of the U.S. Chamber-affiliated companies for whom jobs data is available repatriated over $16 billion in foreign earnings but cut over 70,000 American jobs.
  • 92% of Overseas Repatriated Earnings Went to Shareholders Through Stock Buybacks. Research shows that 92% of overseas earnings repatriated by companies went to shareholders, mostly through stock buybacks.  Such buybacks – which Warren Buffett called “foolish” – typically benefit only those shareholders able to capitalize on short-term impacts, often at the expense of investors interested in long-term growth and investment that leads to job creation.
  • Stock Buybacks Equal “Backdoor Compensation” for Corporate Executives. Since executive compensation is often either linked to measures inflated by buybacks or comes in the form of stock options, these stock buy backs have been have been called “backdoor compensation” for corporate executives.
  • U.S. Chamber Companies Used Repatriation To Increase Their Net Worth, Not Jobs. Many CEOs of U.S. Chamber companies who repatriated earnings and conducted stock buy backs executed stock options, thereby increasing their net worth.

Fear of “Over-Regulation” or Under-Profit?

Both the Republican Party and the U.S. Chamber are echoing the party line that corporations are burdened by overregulation. Yesterday, during a call led by former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, new U.S. Chamber ambassador Evan Bayh, and Chamber executive Bruce Josten, the officials touted the same old anti-regulatory message.

Republicans, in coordination with the Chamber, are portraying their opponents as creating too many regulations and snagging job creation, with regulatory agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Labor Relations Board as their main punching bags.  Make no mistake: this fight is not about job creation – it is about getting “a return” for its member companies’ investors, a.k.a., “profit.”  Since minimal job creation is a by-product of massive, unregulated profit, the Chamber has found its message hook.

But when it comes to trusting corporations to make sound decisions that benefit American workers, homeowners, and small businesses – we needn’t look any further than the Wall Street-driven recession.  The Chamber lobbied heavily against regulations that would have prevented a financial meltdown and even in its aftermath, remained the leading champion of keeping Wall Street exactly the way it was before the collapse. The Chamber is still lobbying to weaken the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation, even teaming with pay-day lenders and big banks to gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau earlier this year.

The Chamber has now brought in the big guns to continue convincing the American public that regulations are the enemy of job growth or PROFIT, but at whose expense? At the expense of seniors’ medial and social security?  At the expense of consumers’ protection from hazardous chemicals in plastics? At the expense of Americans’ environmental health and safety by outright denial of the scientific existence and hazards of pollution and global warming?  Maybe a few jobs will be added here and there but while the rest of us foot the bill for an under-regulated corporate structure, the Chamber and its company members will be raking in the profits and lobbying for a system that perpetually allows it – at our expense.

Chamber Sidelining Small Business on Swipe Fees

Posted by Lauren Levenstein on June 08, 2011
Today, the Senate is voting on whether to delay new rules that would rein in credit card swipe fees charged to businesses every time a customer uses a credit or debit card. According to the Huffington Post, big banks garner $16 billion a year from these fees that disproportionately burden small businesses. Small businesses are fighting hard against delaying the new rules– without the help of their supposedly biggest champion, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.Although it recently hosted a Small Business Summit (boasted about repeatedly on Chamber Post), we’re only hearing crickets from the Chamber, which has remained silent on the issue. For an organization that takes every opportunity to remind us that “more than 96% of U.S. Chamber members are small businesses with 100 employees or fewer,” the Chamber’s silence on this issue speaks volumes, and drives home an important reality: the Chamber is on the side of small business only when it also benefits Big Business.  U.S. Chamber Watch held a call with small business organizations Main Street Alliance and American Sustainable Business Council to ask why the Chamber has been on the sidelines of a visible issue directly hurting small businesses.  According to a Main Street Alliance auto-letter:Debit swipe fees now cost American businesses over $16 billion a year, and exorbitant fees on debit transactions have a disproportionate impact on small businesses. Last year, Congress passed an amendment in the financial overhaul to rein in excessive swipe fees, but the rules set to go into effect in July are facing an all-out assault from big banks and card companies. Setting reasonable limits on swipe fees will give the small business sector a shot in the arm this summer and help businesses grow and create jobs.As dumbfounded Chamber leaders ask “Where are the Jobs?” (right in front of you!) and continuously justify their policy positions as good for small businesses, we ask them, “Where are you on swipe fees?”  Apparently not with Main Street.