In May, over Mother Day’s weekend, organizations from across the country came together to push for multiple voter protection and democracy reform initiatives as a part of the National John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Action Day. There were “votorcades” and marches all across the country, and it was inspiring to see such a concentrated and united effort toward protecting the health of our democracy now and into the future. But as heartening as it is to see organizations coming together in such a big way for progress on democracy-related issues, we must not lose sight of the harmful corporatist-focused organizations that wish only to stand in the way of real change. For a case in point, look no further than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Recently, the U.S. Chamber came out very strongly against both the ”For the People Act,” the comprehensive democracy reform legislation that would overhaul a large swath of the nation’s voting, money-in-politics, and ethics laws, and the ”John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act,” which would restore and strengthen critical portions of elections-related law that have been weakened over time. While the Chamber throwing its hefty lobbying power and influence against crucially important reforms to bolster our democracy is not surprising, the reasons the Chamber cited for its opposition are since they aren’t even cloaked in the appearance of rationality. This serves as evidence of its true intention to work against the overwhelming wishes of the American people in order to maintain the status quo that benefits corporations and wealthy CEOs that wield outsized influence in policymaking.
And the Chamber’s arguments? It bald facedly contended that this legislations’ multiple innovations, which are designed to expand access to voting and decrease corporate power over government, are somehow harmful to the American people. Using its “Key Vote Letter” action threat, the Chamber is even going so far as to consider votes related to these two bills in its “How They Voted” scorecard. Yes, you read that right: the Chamber is apparently the sort of organization that will penalize members of Congress for voting for lasting democracy reform.
But since it isn’t coming clean, let’s dig into the Chamber’s true concerns, shall we? The For the People Act includes the DISCLOSE Act, which would implement a transformational shift in our campaign finance system that would force super PACs and “dark money” organizations like the Chamber of Commerce to make its donors fully public. The shroud of secrecy that companies and donors buy through their donations to the U.S. Chamber would be eliminated, and its noxious impact on our politics ($81 million spent in lobbying in 2020 alone) would likely be significantly blunted. Given the Chamber plays the role of advocating for toxic issues on behalf of its corporate members, like against workers’ rights, suppressing the dangers of climate change, and blocking investments in expanded healthcare to benefit all Americans, it shouldn’t be too shocking that it doesn’t want to lose its raison d’être: doing the dirty work for secret donors.
Since the Chamber is turning its well-funded lobbying energy against democracy reform, it’s critically important for everyday Americans to weigh-in with their Senators in support of the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. This is especially true as we have unfortunately seen anti-voter legislation moving through state legislatures across the country. So, it is now more important than ever that we push Congress to pass and implement these much-needed safeguards on our democracy. We can no longer let a person’s free and fair access to voting, the ultimate basis our democratic process, be left to chance.
However, the Chamber shouldn’t be left on the hook alone for its backward stance on democracy reform as its member company donors actively serve as the organization’s own chief enablers. And while corporate behemoths across the country attempted to curry good favor and PR by running an ad in the New York Times and Washington Post claiming that they stand with the American people in pushing for democracy reforms, several of these very same “pro-democracy” companies are members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Some of them, like Microsoft and Ford Motor Company, even have executives on the Chamber’s Board of Directors. That’s a grade of an F for consistency, folks. Simply put, a company can’t “stand for democracy” and stand with the U.S. Chamber at the same time.
Until these companies drop their donations to the Chamber and abandon their membership, they are only standing against We the People.