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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.



U.S. Chamber Watch

Contact: Christy Setzer 617-512-7572 cell

 Tuesday, October 05, 2010


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.

“How many times does the U.S. Chamber need to find itself on the business end of an IRS complaint before we realize that there’s a pattern here?” asked Christy Setzer, spokeswoman for U.S. Chamber Watch. “In the span of 3 weeks, the Chamber has been under fire for possible illegal activities this election year, during the 2004 cycle, and for the actions of its sister organization, Crossroads GPS.  One thing is clear: We need to know more about the secret transactions that fuel America’s biggest lobbying organization.”

ThinkProgress reported today that “the Chamber funds its political attack campaign out of its general account, which solicits foreign funding… According to legal experts consulted by ThinkProgress, the Chamber is likely skirting longstanding campaign finance law that bans the involvement of foreign corporations in American elections.”

While the report itself demands a closer look into the internal operations of the nation’s largest lobbying and political operation, more damaging is how closely the new story follows on the heels of several other dramatic accusations against the Chamber.

Last month, U.S. Chamber Watch ( filed an IRS complaint against the US Chamber, alleging that the Chamber had laundered almost $20 million from an AIG-affiliated charitable organization, the Starr Foundation, into the Chamber’s political coffers around the time of the 2004 elections. Evidence from the 990s points to the likelihood that the Chamber and AIG’s foundation colluded to use the charitable money to roll back corporate accountability laws and re-elect President Bush.

On Friday, the Chamber again found itself in hot water when it was reported that NewsCorp, the parent company of Fox News, had secretly donated $1 million to the Chamber over the summer.

And today, the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 filed a complaint with the IRS asking the agency to determine whether the Chamber-ally group, Crossroads GPS, is violating tax laws by voicing criticism of candidates for office.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) has asked the IRS commissioner to examine the aggressive electoral activities of non-profit 501(c)4 and (c)6 organizations like the US Chamber for possible violations of tax law.

“Our last president liked to say, ‘Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,’” continued Setzer. “The U.S. Chamber and its secret Republican money friends have been fooling the American voters and the IRS for years. If we let them get away without looking more closely into their political activities, shame on us.”

Shadowy Money From U.S. Chamber of Commerce Pours Into Nine California Congressional Races

For Immediate Release

September 28, 2012

Contact: Angela Bradbery (202) 588-7741, Barbara Holzer (202) 588-7716

Shadowy Money From U.S. Chamber of Commerce Pours Into Nine California Congressional Races

Trade Organization Injects $3.3 Million Into Races for U.S. House of Representatives

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With its latest injection of money into congressional races in California, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is once again trying to ensure that the next Congress does the bidding of Big Business, not the people, according to U.S. Chamber Watch, a project that tracks the activities of the U.S. Chamber and is run by the advocacy group Public Citizen.

The Chamber is spending $3.3 million on nine U.S. House of Representatives races, the National Journal reports. The bulk of the ads will run between now and Oct. 7, although some reportedly will run later. California residents should prepare to have their airwaves inundated with the Chamber’s attack ads. But those residents should not expect to know which companies financed those TV ads, said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen.

Empowered by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a ruling that allows corporations to spend unlimited sums to influence elections, the Chamber plans to spend $100 million in this year’s elections.

While the Chamber would like to be seen as the national representative of small business, it is in fact the leading mouthpiece for large corporations. Responding to the desires of its secret funders, the Chamber speaks for Wall Street, not Main Street, Weissman said.

“As the funnel for corporate Dark Money, the Chamber is trying to buy elections, plain and simple. Refusing to reveal its giant multinational corporate funders, the Chamber hopes that it can blanket the airwaves and deliver victories to Big Business,” Weissman said.

The Chamber refuses to disclose its donors. The organization’s president and CEO Tom Donohue claims that any disclosure would lead to “intimidation” of corporate backers. The Chamber has been a leading opponent of legislative and other proposals that would force disclosure of funders of trade associations and other organizations that engage in electioneering.

The New York Times reported in 2010 that half the Chamber’s $140 million in 2008 contributions came from just 45 companies.

U.S. Chamber Watch supports the Securities and Exchange Commission requiring publicly traded companies to disclose their spending, so that citizens will know which huge corporations are funding the attack ads of entities like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

U.S. Chamber’s “Jobs Agenda” Doesn’t Create Jobs, Say Advocates in Advance of “State of American Business” Address


Contact: Christy Setzer 202-506-6421

U.S. Chamber’s “Jobs Agenda” Doesn’t Create Jobs, Say Advocates in Advance of “State of American Business” Address
Chamber-Proposed Deregulation and Tax Breaks Benefit Big Business at the Expense of the 99%

January 11, 2012 (Washington, DC) – Just ahead of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s annual “State of American Business” address, leaders from the business sector, consumer protection and environmental advocacy groups spoke out against the Chamber’s so-called “Jobs Agenda” as nothing more than a guise to promote Big Business and line the pockets of wealthy member CEOs. Representatives from Patriotic Millionaires, the National Wildlife Federation, Public Citizen and U.S. Chamber Watch stated on a press call that while Chamber President Tom Donohue has advocated for months for further deregulation and lower taxes on giant corporations and millionaires to stimulate hiring, the Chamber has shown little concern for the 14 million Americans still looking for work and has invested significant resources in projects detrimental to the middle class.

“It becomes immediately clear where the Chamber’s priorities stand when you look at their reaction to the American Jobs Act,” said Leo Hindery, member of Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength. “Instead of urging higher taxes on millionaires to reduce the deficit, create jobs and strengthen the economy, they greedily protected their own pockets—pockets that are already plenty full at a time when millions of their fellow citizens struggle to make ends meet.”

In an October 11th letter to members of the United States Senate, the U.S. Chamber opposed the American Jobs Act because it would have returned tax rates to the Clinton-era level for millionaires and billionaires, imposing a 5.6% surtax on people making $1 million a year or more.

“The Chamber’s agenda is just a grab-bag of gifts to its massive corporate donors,” said David Arkush, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “It wants to block regulations that protect American health and the environment, to reward companies for tax evasion, to insulate wrongdoers from accountability, and to let the financial sector run wild and crash the U.S. economy again. Policy makers should think twice before supporting these positions, which amount to an aggressive campaign to undermine the lives of nearly all Americans.”

The Chamber has pushed hard on industry deregulation, arguing that regulations are harmful to job creation—despite numerous studies showing that regulations do no such thing. In one particularly jarring example of the Chamber’s campaign against regulations, the organization spent more than $700,000 to dismantle the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in 2011—a nod to the Chamber’s eight member companies who have been charged by the SEC for violating the FCPA.

Additionally, last year, the Chamber lobbied for the Keystone XL Pipeline—a highly controversial project that would have transported toxic tar sands fuel from Canada clear across the country to Texas refineries.  Again, the Chamber did so under the guise of job creation. While a few Big Oil CEOs would have temporarily hired 500 to 1400 construction workers and reaped windfall profits for decades to come, the pipeline would also put much of the Midwest at risk of irreversible environmental damage, health hazards and rising gas prices that would stifle an already fragile economy.

“There’s not much to like about what is going on in Washington. The political games Congress and the Chamber will play over the pipeline in 2012 speaks to the grip that oil companies have over our elected officials,” said Jeremy Symons, Senior Vice President at the National Wildlife Federation.

“The greatest myth about the U.S. Chamber is that they have an interest in creating or protecting jobs,” said Christy Setzer of U.S. Chamber Watch, a watchdog organization. “Rolling back needed regulations and putting more money in the pockets of millionaires and corporate CEOs won’t create jobs, but it will benefit the wealthy few who fund the Chamber’s lobbying budget.”

U.S. Chamber’s Truth in Advertising Troubles Continue

U.S. Chamber’s Truth in Advertising Troubles Continue
Secret undisclosed money used to fabricate claims in TV ad for Republican candidate in NY-26

May 20, 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Chamber is at it again. In their new ad urging western New Yorkers to vote for Republican congressional candidate Jane Corwin in Tuesday’s special election, the Chamber uses text from a supposed article in a local newspaper to tout Corwin’s record. The problem? The article doesn’t exist.

“Unfortunately, this is just the latest in a string of ‘truth in advertising’ problems for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” said U.S. Chamber Watch spokeswoman Christy Setzer. “But the larger problem is one that simply pulling the ad won’t address: The Chamber’s ability to buy our elections with unlimited amounts of secret corporate money. False ads like this one are yet another reason why we need checks and balances—not just checks—on the Chamber’s ability to spend corporate money without divulging who’s really behind it.”

Tonawanda News Managing Editor Eric DuVall said he was “surprised” when he saw the ad on Wednesday, because “I can’t imagine what (the ad) was referencing… There was nothing ever written by the Tonawanda News that would have supported those claims.” As the Niagara Gazette reported yesterday, “DuVall felt the Chamber of Commerce was giving people the impression that his newspaper was agreeing with Corwin’s campaign themes.”

The Tonowanda News had strong words for the Chamber, noting that its article “being misappropriated for a political profit is shameful,” and pointing out it had requested that the US Chamber “stop airing this misleading advertisement.”

This certainly isn’t the first time that the Chamber has been caught lying. Here are just a few of the many examples:

  • A Chamber ad was deemed “False” by the St. Petersburg Times when it claimed, the Democratic health care law crushes small businesses “with billions in penalties.”  They wrote, “The chamber’s ad is sweeping, and doesn’t account for any of the positive provisions that don’t “crush” small business but actually help them.”
  • The Washington Post wrote that cookie-cutter Chamber ads running against multiple districts against House Democrats contained claims that were “demonstrable distortions or have been repeatedly debunked as false by independent fact-checkers,” like the assertion that the health care reform law would “gut Medicare by $500 billion”
  • A Chamber ad attacking Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak for voting “100% of the time with Nancy Pelosi” was actually pulled off the air because it was so inaccurate, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  • said of Chamber ads against Senator Barbara Boxer claiming she voted to “cut water” and kill jobs in favor of fish, “Strictly speaking, both ads are untrue.

The ad currently running in NY-26 was paid for directly by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which – unlike candidate committees or political parties – does not have to disclose their donors and let the public know who’s actually paying for the attack ads. Because of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, groups like the Chamber can spend unlimited amounts of secret corporate money to influence our democratic electoral process. In 2010, the U.S. Chamber spent $32 million airing more than 25,000 political ads, 93 percent of which went to attacking Democrats or advocating for Republicans.


Washington, DC—Today, US 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.”