U.S. Chamber of Commerce

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U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a powerful business lobbying group in the United States that "has become a fully functional part of the partisan Republican machine" since CEO and president Thomas J. Donohue took office in 1997. Prior to Donohue's tenure, the Chamber "used to be a trade association that advocated in a bipartisan manner for narrowly tailored policies to benefit its members." [1] The Chamber's 2010 budget is approximately $200 million, but as a trade organization, its donors can remain anonymous. [2]

According to its website, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce "has one overarching mission—to strengthen the competitiveness of the U.S. economy.[3] It describes itself as "the world's largest business federation representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region."[4]

Despite these claims, the New York Times reported in October 2010 that half of the Chamber's $140 million in contributions in 2008 came from just 45 big-money donors, many of whom enlisted the Chamber's help to fight political and public opinion battles on their behalf (such as opposing financial or healthcare reforms, or other regulations). [2] The Chamber is "dominated by oil companies, pharmaceutical giants, automakers and other polluting industries," according to James Carter, executive director of the Green Chamber of Commerce.[5]

Koch Wiki

The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.


Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It has been a member of the Civil Justice Task Force,[6] the Education Task Force,[7] the International Relations Task Force[8][9] and the Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force,[10] according to ALEC materials. According to an August 2013 ALEC board document obtained by The Guardian, its Campaign for Free Enterprise terminated its membership in ALEC's Education Task Force on April 22, 2013. Its Institute for Legal Reform, however, had also been part of this task force, and was not listed as "lapsed" or "terminated."[9]

Page Faulk, Vice President,[11] presented "The Promoting Merit in 'Merit Selection' Act" model legislation at Civil Justice Task Force Meeting at the 2011 meeting.[6] Stanton D. Anderson, Senior Counsel to the President and Chief Executive Officer,[12] issued remarks on the "Free Enterprise Education Act" model legislation, and Roberta Philips sponsored discussion and voting on the act, at the Education Task Force Meeting of the 2011 meeting.[7] Mark Elliot, Executive Vice President, and Andrew Kovalcin, Director of Stakeholder Advocacy, both of the Chamber's Global Intellectual Property Center, introduced the "Resolution in Support of Federal Efforts to Address Rogue Internet Sites that Sell Counterfeit Products and Facilitate Digital Theft" at the Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force Meeting[10] and presented on the "Erosion of Intellectual Property" and introduced the "ALEC Resolution to Counter Rogue Internet Sites" model policy at the International Relations Task Force Meeting at the 2011 meeting.[8]

The Chamber's International Division joined ALEC's International Relations Task Force on July 3, 2013, according to ALEC board materials.[9]

About ALEC
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.

Philadelphia Paid Sick Leave

In March 2013, the Philadelphia City Council passed, by an 11 to 6 vote, a paid sick days bill that would have allowed employees without sick leave to earn up to four paid sick days per year.[13] Over 180,000 workers in Philadelphia do not have access to paid sick days and would have benefited from this measure. [14] However, major opponents of the paid sick leave bill, special interest groups aligned with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), successfully lobbied Mayor Nutter to veto it[14]. The bill died when the council was unable to sway enough nay votes to override the mayoral veto; they needed just one more.[13] These groups, the National Restaurant Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) are all tied to ALEC.[14] The case of Philadelphia was unique in "the participation of telecommunications giant Comcast, Philadelphia's highest grossing company and an ALEC member."[14] The corporation spent over $108,000 on lobbying, most of which went towards opposition to the paid sick days bill.[14]

More than 40 percent of the work force in the United States cannot take sick days without losing wages or possibly their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Major cities such as Washington DC, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, as well as the state of Connecticut, have put paid sick day laws on the books; New York City will soon follow suit.[14] The initiative is quickly moving to cities across the country "and in each case, the state and local branches of the National Restaurant Association, the NFIB, and the Chamber are actively opposing it" as they did in Philadelphia.[14] Philadelphia was not the first instance where these special interest groups came together to thwart this legislation. City of Milwaukee voters passed a paid sick days referendum with over 70 percent of the vote in 2008 but when Scott Walker became Wisconsin's governor in 2011, the state affiliate of the National Restaurant Association and the local Chamber lobbied Walker to back "a bill to overturn this expression of local democratic will and preempt any local paid sick day ordinance."[14]


2012 Presidential Elections

As of November 2nd, 2012 the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent $35.3 million towards influencing the elections, $27 million has been used in attacking Democrats.[15] They have heavily backed a slue of Republicans, including Rep. Todd Akins (R-Mo), Rep. Marie Buerkle (R-NY), and many others.

2010 Midterm Elections

The U.S. Chamber played a major role in the Republican victories in the 2010 midterm Congressional elections, promising to spend $75 million (and reporting only $32 million), and helping to organize and coordinate spending by other "outside interest groups" like American Crossroads and American Action Network [16] In a blog post the night before the election, the Chamber stated it “had been a game-changing political force in these midterms. We’ve engaged in tight, competitive races; and we’ve altered them.”[17]

The Chamber claimed it offered support to all pro-business candidates, regardless of party affiliation. However, according to a report from the union-backed Chamber Watch, "[i]t worked almost exclusively to elect Republicans in the powerful Senate, giving one lone endorsement to a Democrat, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, on whom it made no expenditures. On the House side, the Chamber created an appearance of bipartisanship by spending on behalf of eleven Democrats. But the Chamber’s support for Democratic members was razor-thin, and sometimes, the Chamber withheld support altogether, even where Democratic members worked hard to earn the Chamber’s approval." [18]

Whats more, while 93% of reported expenditures went to support Republicans, the 6% spent to support Democrats were spent on generic, non-candidate-specific ads, rather than more effective ads attacking opponents. The ads tended not to identify candidate-specific positive qualities, instead relying on a template with the same title for several different candidates, only changing the candidate’s name, picture and office number. The ads were also run later than ads supporting their Republican counterparts.[18]

Link to American Crossroads

American Crossroads and the Chamber are closely tied, and closely coordinated their efforts in the 2010 midterm elections.

In 2008, Chamber President Tom Donahue told the Los Angeles Times that he wanted to get very involved with elections. 'Alarmed at the increasingly populist tone of the 2008 political campaign, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is set to issue a fiery promise to spend millions of dollars to defeat candidates deemed to be anti-business. "We plan to build a grass-roots business organization so strong that when it bites you in the butt, you bleed," chamber President Tom Donohue said.' [19]

According to the U.S. Chamber Watch report:

The U.S. Chamber first began to coordinate massive Republican resources when its general counsel, Steven Law, met with Ed Gillespie, Republican political strategist and former Counselor to President George W. Bush. According to the Associated Press, Law met with Gillespie in October of 2009, “calculating how to exploit the voter anger they had seen erupt at Democratic town hall meetings that summer.” [20]
It was at this meeting that they conceived of American Crossroads an organization, that according to its website, is dedicated to “renewing America’s commitment to individual liberty, limited government, free enterprise and a strong national defense.” Law left the U.S. Chamber to serve as the group’s CEO.

According to Think Progress:

“At every turn, from the operatives running the two organizations to their targeted races to their media firms, American Crossroads and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are bound to one another…the two groups have exhibited uncanny coordination in their election targeting. In a number of Senate races, the Chamber and American :Crossroads coordinated their advertisements – one group put up ads in a race as the other group pulled its own down – in :order to ensure attack ads were always running against the Democratic candidate.”[21]

Post-Election Backlash

The U.S. Chamber's partisan, corporate-funded (and often untrue) campaign attacks have compelled many local Chambers of Commerce to disassociate from the U.S. Chamber. [22] Despite the U.S. Chamber's attempts to portray itself as a community of small businesses and local Chambers of Commerce, the interests the U.S. Chamber served in the 2010 elections were those of its large corporate donors. More than 40 local chambers issued statements during the campaign distancing themselves from the U.S. Chamber, including chambers in the "battleground states" of Iowa and New Hampshire. Some chambers are considering what Politico calls the "extraordinary" step of ending their affiliation with the U.S. Chamber and quitting in protest.[23]

Contributions in 2012

2014 Report

The report, “The Gilded Chamber: Despite Claims of Representing Millions of Businesses, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Gets Most of Its Money From Just 64 Donors,” analyzes the 1,619 contributions listed by the Chamber and its affiliate working against consumer access to courts, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), on their 2012 Form 990 tax returns. Just a tiny fraction of their donors account for most of their contributions, Public Citizen found.

The average reported contribution to the U.S. Chamber was $111,254, with the top 43 entities donating a combined $80.4 million.

“The U.S. Chamber is one of the largest conduits of dark money in the country, but it refuses to disclose its donors,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, where U.S. Chamber Watch is housed. “The American people deserve to know more about who’s influencing this powerful force in our politics. By looking at the size of the Chamber’s and ILR’s donations, we can learn a little more about what kinds of businesses they represent – seemingly, very large ones.” [24]

Accusations of Tax Fraud and Money Laundering

2010 Complaint

In September, 2010, two national watchdog groups, U.S. Chamber Watch and StopTheChamber.com, filed complaints with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service asking the agency to investigate the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for criminal fraud and money laundering. The groups allege that the Chamber illegally funneled donations from a wealthy charitable foundation into its political battles. Chamber Watch said that $12 million of an $18 million donation that the wealthy Starr Foundation gave (pdf) gave to the National Chamber Foundation was in the form of loans that have never been repaid. Chamber Watch says the money was diverted to finance political causes, including tort reform, to shield companies like AIG from liability lawsuits. The Starr Foundation was founded by Cornelius Vander Starr, the insurance entrepreneur who also founded AIG. The Foundation's Chairman of the Board of Directors is Maurice R. Greenberg, former President and CEO of AIG. The Foundation's Director (and Treasurer) is Howard I. Smith, AIG's former Chief Financial Officer. StopTheChamber.com says it was contacted by a Chamber whistleblower who described (pdf) how Chamber CEO Tom Donohue is "scamming [business] clients to serve his own interests rather than the interests of the business community." The insider compared Donohue to Jack Abramoff and Bernie Madoff. He also alleged that Donohue does not fear the Federal Elections Commission or Congress, and has a plan set up to attack the U.S. Department of Justice if the agency ever tries to investigate him.[25]

The September charge echoed similar charges made earlier in the year, in January, 2010, that six of the largest health insurance companies in the U.S. had been secretly funneling millions of dollars to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to oppose health reform. The total amount in this instance was estimated at between $10 million and $20 million. According to a report in the National Journal online, the money was used "to help underwrite tens of millions of dollars of television ads by two business coalitions set up and subsidized by the chamber."[26][27]

2006 Public Citizen Complaint

On October 31, 2006, Public Citizen filed a complaint[28] with the IRS asking it to investigate whether the Chamber and "its affiliated Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) failed to report millions in taxable spending from 2000 to 2004 intended to influence state-level attorney general and supreme court races and federal races around the country."[29]

It also asked the IRS to investigate whether Chamber and the ILR, "which are two separate legal entities, combined funds in a shared bank account to hide accurate reporting of investment or interest income for tax avoidance. ... Court records, internal corporate documents and media reports indicate that the Chamber and the ILR engaged in a massive campaign to affect the outcome of state and federal races through direct expenditures and grants made to organizations that carried out the Chamber’s wishes."[29]

Public Citizen reported that[29]

"In 2000, the Chamber claimed it spent $6 million on judicial races and took credit for winning 15 out of 17 state supreme court contests. In 2002, the Chamber said it planned to spend $40 million on political campaigns, divided equally between congressional and state-level attorneys general and judicial races. None of these activities were reported on their tax returns from 2000 to 2003.
"In 2004, the first year since at least 2000 that the Chamber and the ILR reported political expenditures, both organizations appear to have underreported their spending. They reported a combined $18 million, but in a 'President's Update' memo released the day after the November elections, Chamber President Thomas Donohue claimed the group had spent up to $30 million in races around the country.
"The Chamber and ILR also failed to report grants and allocations to outside groups as required by Line 22 of IRS Form 990. Both organizations reported no grants to outside groups from 2000 to 2004. But in a 2005 deposition, a Chamber official acknowledged that the Chamber had partnered with at least six outside groups to advance its agenda to avoid garnering unwanted critical attention. At least two 501(c) organizations, the Washington-based American Taxpayers Alliance and the Columbus-based Citizens for a Strong Ohio, reported receipt of contributions from the U.S. Chamber."

U.S. Politics

Climate Change Legislation

Documents Contained at the Anti-Environmental Archives
Documents written by or referencing this person or organization are contained in the Anti-Environmental Archive, launched by Greenpeace on Earth Day, 2015. The archive contains 3,500 documents, some 27,000 pages, covering 350 organizations and individuals. The current archive includes mainly documents collected in the late 1980s through the early 2000s by The Clearinghouse on Environmental Advocacy and Research (CLEAR), an organization that tracked the rise of the so called "Wise Use" movement in the 1990s during the Clinton presidency. Access the index to the Anti-Environmental Archives here.

In 2009, the Chamber of Commerce lobbied against climate change legislation introduced by Congress. In describing its strategy, the Chamber says it will "resist ill-conceived legislation that is economically disruptive of business and industry activities, that creates regulatory and legislative obstacles to development and deployment of affordable, innovative energy technologies, and that could severely damage the security and economy of the United States."[30] The chamber said it supports "mainstream, common sense views" on climate change, but that it opposes the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill passed by the House of Representatives on June 26, 2009.[31]

The group's opposition to the legislation has caused a rift among its corporate members. A number of companies have announced they are leaving the organization as a result of its stance on climate change regulations. Energy companies Exelon, PG&E, and PNM Resources all announced in September 2009 that they were quitting the Chamber. [32] Apple Inc also resigned from the Chamber, saying in a statement, "We would prefer that the chamber take a more progressive stance on this critical issue and play a constructive role in addressing the climate crisis"[33] Sportswear company Nike also criticized the Chamber's challenge of the U.S. EPA's authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions as air pollution.[31] Nike said it would resign from the Chambers's board of directors, but that it would retain its membership to the organization in order to work for climate change legislation from inside the organization.[34]

The Yes Men's fake press conference

Citizen Action Against the Chamber of Commerce's Stance on Climate Change

Yes Men Stage Fake Chamber of Commerce Press Conference

On October 19, 2009, anti-corporate performance artists the Yes Men issued a fake press release on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, claiming that the Chamber had reversed its position on climate change would no longer lobby against the legislation. The activists managed to secure a room at the National Press Club to stage a press conference announcing the policy shift to reporters. The real Chamber of Commerce spokesperson Eric Wohlschlegel interrupted the event and declared the event a fraud. Afterwards, the Chamber threatened to push for a criminal investigation over the prank.[35]

Grassroots Campaigns Against the Chamber

CREDO Action, part of the Working Assets company, launched a campaign against the Chamber's stance on climate change legislation. The group is organizing an effort to urge members of the lobbying group to resign, calling on them to "denounce the Chamber's extremist position on global warming and revoke your membership effective immediately."[36]

Velvet Revolution has also organized a campaign against the Chamber of Commerce, citing its stance on climate change among other reasons to call for a reform of the corporate lobbying group.[37]

Employee Free Choice Act

In the 2009 debate over the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), a bill that would make it easier for workers to join a union, "both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO are focusing on grassroots outreach," reported PR Week. Before the bill was introduced, "the Chamber launched the Workforce Freedom Airlift program, a series of events that fly in local small business owners to Washington," to lobby against the bill. The first "airlift," on March 10, 2009, "brought in small business owners from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Nebraska, and Louisiana." Since July 2008, the Chamber has worked with Adfero Group on an anti-EFCA "social media effort," expanding "a virtual march on Washington that was created the last time the bill went to Congress in 2007." It "allows users to register for the march as avatars and send an automatic letter to their elected officials through a Facebook application." [38]

In April 2009, the Chamber launched a "$1 million television advertising campaign that takes a new line of attack against the Employee Free Choice Act, highlighting a provision that would allow federal arbitrators to set the rules for unionization if management and employees fail to negotiate their own deal." The ads "will hit the airwaves in Nebraska, Virginia, Louisiana, North Dakota and Colorado -- states whose senators could be swing votes." Previous attacks on the bill, from the Chamber and corporate front groups like the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace and Employee Freedom Action Committee, claimed it would get rid of secret ballot elections. The bill would actually allow employees to form unions either by holding elections or signing cards. Although the "no secret ballot" claims are inaccurate, they've been effective, accorting to the Wall Street Journal. The "more than $30 million on TV ads [spent by business groups] in the past few years portraying the secret-ballot provision as antidemocratic ... pressured several key senators to reverse their prior support, leaving the bill several senators short of 60 votes." [39]

Political Action Committee, The November Fund

The Chamber sponsored The November Fund, a 527 committee that opposes what it describes as frivolous lawsuits and trial lawyers and ran negative campaign advertisements against trial lawyer John Edwards, John Kerry's running mate during the 2004 presidential race.


"Under Donohue’s leadership, the Chamber has also emerged as a major player in election politics, helping elect congressional pro-business candidates through financial support and voter activism and turnout generated through the Chamber’s grassroots organization," VoteForBusiness,[40] billed as "Your One-Stop Political Action, Education, and Involvement Tool".

Websites: http://www.voteforbusiness.net/ and http://www.voteforbusiness.com

Opposition to Paid Sick Leave

In Wisconsin, a local representative of the US Chamber of Commerce called the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce lobbied together with the Wisconsin Restaurant Association for the adoption of Senate Bill 23, which overturned a local ordinance requiring paid sick leave for workers. The law "specified that paid sick leave could be used if a worker is ill, needs to care for a sick child, or obtain counseling if raped or battered, for example. The law also barred companies from penalizing workers for exercising their rights and from erecting unreasonable barriers to impede the fair use of sick leave." [41]

National Chamber Foundation

"The revitalized National Chamber Foundation, the Chamber’s public policy think tank, is shaping the policy debate on cutting-edge business issues, with major new initiatives on intellectual property theft and counterfeiting, capital markets and accounting rules, and travel and tourism."[40]


Law Firm

"The National Chamber Litigation Center, the Chamber’s law firm, has become more aggressive in challenging anti-business measures in court, setting a new record for cases entered in each of the last six years and securing 48 court victories in 2006."[40]

Legal Reform

The Chamber has taken a lead role in the tort reform movement. It sponsors the Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), a 501(c)6 organization, and Legal Reform Now, a coalition of business associations, think tanks, and legal reform groups. Website: http://www.instituteforlegalreform.com/

On its website, the ILR posted a "State Liability Systems Ranking" which it calls "Lawsuit Climate 2007".[42]

Opposing "Activist Judges"

In late May 2005, the Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform President Lisa Rickard announced it was going to "reign in activist attorneys general."[43] At a Chamber-sponsored conference examining the "appropriate role" of a state attorney general, several speakers "complained that 'Spitzerism' has become a dangerous model for ambitious regulators," refering to New York AG Eliot Spitzer.[44]

Madison County Record (Illinois)

The Madison County Record, "an Illinois weekly newspaper launched in September [2004] that bills itself as the county's legal journal, reports on one subject: the state courts in southern Illinois," Jeffrey H. Birnbaum reported in the Washington Post.[45]

Birnbuam pointed to a "recent front page[that] carried an assortment of stories about lawsuits against businesses. In one, a woman sought $15,000 in damages for breaking her nose at a haunted house. In another, a woman sued a restaurant for $50,000 after she hurt her teeth on a chicken breast. ... Nowhere was it reported that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce created the Record as a weapon in its multimillion-dollar campaign against lawyers who file those kinds of suits," Birnbaum wrote.[45]

Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act

In October 2007, the Chamber filed a friend-of-the court filing in a class action lawsuit under consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court which originated with a California RICO lawsuit involving Microsoft and Best Buy. The Chamber stated that "RICO is getting out of control as a device against business. It has been used in more than 4,500 cases since 2001, with only 35 of those cases filed by the government."[46] The Supreme Court overturned the appeal and ruled that Microsoft and Best Buy are subject to RICO laws.[47]



The Chamber's TradeRoots website is billed as "the nation's leading sustained grassroots education program dedicated to raising public awareness of international trade on a local level."[48]

The Trade Toolbox, a "resource to help in the trade export process, ... includes trade statistics, country and market reports, best market reports, frequently asked questions and trade contacts." The Toolbox was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce.[49]

Website: http://www.traderoots.org/


TheTrueCosts.org is a now defunct website sponsored by the Chamber. In conjunction with the Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy (CACP), it produced the No Trade in Fakes Supply Chain Tool Kit, which provided "proven strategies" for companies "to use to protect their supply chains from counterfeiters and modern-day pirates."

Coal and Energy

Chamber Distributes Books on Energy to Children

In 2010, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce joined with Scholastic Books to distribute roughly 100,000 books about the potential perils of government fossil fuel regulation to classrooms across the country, as part of its “Shedding Light on Energy" campaign. The book asks, “What do you think could happen if one of our energy sources was suddenly unavailable (e.g., power plant maintenance, government curb on production, etc.)?” Chamber officials maintain that there is no “hidden agenda” behind the question or the educational outreach effort in general, although the book is notably being distributed at a time when the Environmental Protection Agency is set to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.[50]

The energy industry has a long history of working to get its perspective into classrooms. In the 1970s, for example, nuclear power officials distributed comic books in schools as it dealt with the PR fallout from the near meltdown at Three Mile Island. And BP helped develop environmental lesson plans in California, the Sacramento Bee reported last month. The posters and worksheets that the Chamber will be sending out to schools aross the country is based on statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and the assignments are mostly aimed at teaching students how to use charts and graphs to convey where U.S. energy comes from and how it is used.[50]

Chamber's Institute for Energy

In March 2007, O'Dwyer's PR Daily reported that General James L. Jones, formerly the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO forces in Europe, had joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as a lobbyist.[51]

"Jones will head the Institute for Energy, which is to present itself as a grassroots organization. The Chamber went a similar path with the creation of the Institute for Legal Reform." Jones will focus on global warming and seek "to 'unify energy stakeholders behind a common strategy' to produce affordable and secure supplies while protecting the environment," reported O'Dwyer's, quoting Chamber president Tom Donohue.[51]

National Gas Tax

"After a Minneapolis bridge collapsed on Aug. 1, [2007,] killing 13 people, members of Congress have sought to increase the gas tax to fix 'structurally deficient' bridges and make other infrastructure repairs. ... The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, groups that don’t normally agree with tax increases, support a national gas tax increase to pay for infrastructure improvements."[52]

Other Issues

Opposing National Health Care Reform

The U.S. Chamber sponsored the Campaign for Responsible Health Reform, a program launched in 2009 to convince people to preserve employer-sponsored health insurance and oppose a public insurance option in health care reform in the U.S. The Campaign aimed to convince people that a government-sponsored plan is "fiscally reckless," will "lead us down the road to total government control of our health," and that it will make those with private insurance pay even more.

The Campaign said that "a government-run plan that would have broad and unrivaled power to negotiate for low-cost services of doctors and other health care providers could put private insurers out of business."

The group's former website had a "Take Action" page that says "We can’t afford to let a government-run plan raise our taxes and create long waits for treatment." It urges people to write their Congress members to oppose "government-run health care."[53]


The Chamber is among a number of organizations which supported President George W. Bush's October 2007 veto of the SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007) bill.[54] Republicans and "some business groups" such as the Chamber contended SCHIP "should focus on poor children and the expansion [would be] a move towards government-run health care. They also worr[ied] identification rules in the Democratic SCHIP bill might allow illegal immigrants to obtain government coverage."[55]

Immigration Amnesty and Reform

The Chamber, "among others, has pushed for immigration reforms that would allow a path to citizenship for undocumented workers."[56]

In January 2004, speaking in support of amnesty for illegal aliens, Randel Y. Johnson, Chamber vice president for labor, immigration and employee benefits, said: "We need a system of 'earned targeted adjustment' for undocumented workers that fill vital roles in our economy, which would enable them to achieve legal status. We also need to expand permanent and temporary visas for workers to enter the United States legally to meet future workforce requirements."[57]

Social Security

The Chamber also has a role in promoting President George W. Bush's plan to privatize Social Security.

Lobbying Spending

The Chamber ranks first in lobbying spending in the past decade, with General Electric ranking second at $161 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.[58]

Political Money Line highlighted in February 2005 that the Chamber and its Institute for Legal Reform reported combined spending of $53.38 million for lobbying the Executive and Legislative branches during 2004. According to the watchdog website, "This is the largest twelve-month amount reported spent by any group."[59]

The Chamber reported spending $20,060,000 in the first six months of 2004 and $8,780,000 in the last six months of 2004. They paid forty-five lobbyists in the last six months of 2004 to lobby on thirty-two issue areas, including "Trade, Small Business, Labor, Healthcare, Defense, Appropriations, Tort Reform and other areas."[60]

The Institute for Legal Reform reported spending $10,000,000 in the first six months of 2004 and $14,540,000 in the last six months. They had five lobbyists on the payroll for the last six months of 2004, working on the tort reform issue including "Class Action Fairness, Asbestos Injury Resolution, Legal Reform, and Lawsuit Abuse Reduction."[61]

Election Cycle Spending

Other spending reported by Political Money Line or Open Secrets:

  • In 2007, $21.2 million total was spent by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its subsidiary the Institute for Legal Reform (ILR); $11.78 million for the Chamber and $9.4 million by ILR.[62]
  • In 2006, $72.7 million total was spent by the Chamber and ILR; $45.7 million for the Chamber and $27 million for the ILR.[63]
  • In 2005, $39.8 million total was spent by the Chamber and ILR; $20 million for the Chamber and $19.8 million for ILR.[64]
  • In 2004, $53.4 million total was spent by the Chamber and ILR; $28.8 million for the Chamber and $24.5 million for ILR.[65]
  • In 2003, $34.6 million total was spent by the Chamber and ILR. For the period 7/1/03 to 6/30/04 they spent $47.8 million.
  • In 2002, $41.56 million total was spent by the Chamber and ILR. For the period 7/1/02 to 6/30/03 they spent $45.6 million.
  • In 2001, $20.6 million total was spent by the Chamber and ILR. For the period 7/1/01 to 6/30/02 they spent $25.9 million.

The Chamber and Large Corporations

The Chamber claims to represent 3 million businesses, 96 percent of which are small, defined as having fewer than 100 employees. But the Chamber arrives at this figure by counting all businesses that are members of state and local chambers, which are independent organizations that pay a few hundreds dollars a year to affiliate with the U.S. Chamber for discounts and other programs and have no say over the national group's political activities, its lobbying, or endorsements. The U.S. Chamber's membership is actually about 300,000 businesses, and the Chamber's boardroom is mostly representatives of large corporations. Its 125-member board includes representatives of just two local chambers and a handful of small businesses. The rest are primarily from large corporations, like Pfizer, Alcoa, and JP Morgan Chase. In 2008, one-third of the $147 million the group raised came from just 19 companies.[66] In 2010, the watchdog group U.S. ChamberWatch used a disclosure law to see the Chamber's IRS 990 form. It showed that 55 percent of its funding came from just 16 companies, each of which gave more than a million dollars.[67] (Exactly which companies is unknown. U. S. law requires the Chamber to list amounts given on its annual tax return, but it is not obligated to disclose names.)[66]

In 2010, chambers in San Antonio, New York, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut began publicly moving away from the U.S. Chamber, disavowing the 2010 political attack ads that the U.S. Chamber had been broadcasting in their communities. Newer chambers, like the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, have declined to affiliate with the national group and have been among its most vocal critics: "They get the majority of their funding from big businesses. That's who drives their decisions," explains Executive Director Frank Knapp, noting that, unlike the U. S. Chamber, his group supported the health care bill and financial reform, and favors legislation to curb global warming.[66]

Alleged Spying on Critics

In 2010, Aaron Barr, CEO of the technology security company HBGary Federal, alleged that he could exploit social media to gather information about hackers like those who supported WikiLeaks. In early 2011, Barr claimed to have used his techniques to infiltrate the Wikileaks supporter Anonymous, partly by using IRC, Facebook, Twitter, and social networking sites. His e-mails depict his intention to release information on the identities of Anonymous members and to sell it to possible clients.[68] </ref> In early February of 2011, the activist group Anonymous hacked the firm's website, copied tens of thousands of documents from HBGary, posted tens of thousands of company emails online, and usurped Barr's Twitter account.[69]

According to some of HBGary's e-mails, the Chamber of Commerce hired the lobbying firm Hunton & Williams, and attorneys for the law firm then solicited a set of private security firms — HB Gary Federal, Palantir, and Berico Technologies (collectively called Team Themis) — to develop a sabotage campaign against progressive groups and labor unions, including the group ThinkProgress, the labor coalition Change to Win, the labor union SEIU, U.S. Chamber Watch, and StopTheChamber.com. Later emails revealed that the private spy company investigated the families and children of the Chamber’s political opponents. The apparent spearhead of this project was Aaron Barr, who circulated numerous emails and documents detailing information about political opponents’ children, spouses, and personal lives.[70]

On February 10, 2011, the Chamber of Commerce issued a statement denying they hired HBGary, calling the allegation a "baseless smear", and blaming the Center for American Progress and its blog, ThinkProgress for "the illusion of a connection between HBGary, its CEO Aaron Barr and the Chamber."[71][72]

Chamber Campaigns

In June, 2011 the Chamber enlisted former White House Chief of Staff under President Bush Andrew Card, and Democratic former Indiana Senator Evan Bayh to put on a national "road show" to rally businesses to oppose government regulations. The road show is being handled by Chamber employee Thomas Collamore, who formerly was a vice president of Philip Morris Corporate Affairs, the department at PM that was responsible for thwarting national efforts to reduce tobacco use. The Chamber planned to formally announce the Bayh and Card road show on June 22, 2011, and then start flying the two around the country in a push to gather support for reducing regulations designed to protect the environment, consumers and workers. The Chamber plans to fight the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, push to minimize the power of the recently-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, block implementation of OSHA workplace safety and health programs, hamper employees' ability to join unions, and make other pro-business reforms. The Chamber has spent months soliciting millions of dollars in funding for this anti-regulatory effort from Wall Street financial firms, insurance and energy companies. [73]

Affiliated Centers / Organizations

Senior Management

The following are listed as members of the Chamber's senior management.[76]

  • Thomas J. Donohue - President and CEO
  • David C. Chavern - Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
  • Myron Brilliant - Executive Vice President and Head of International
  • Lily Fu Claffee - Senior Vice President, Chief Legal Officer, and General Counsel
  • Shannon DiBari - Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer
  • Amanda Engstrom Eversole - Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff; Senior Vice President, U.S. Chamber Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness
  • Stan Harrell - Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Information Officer
  • David Hirschmann - Senior Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; President & CEO, U.S. Chamber Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness; President and CEO, the Global Intellectual Property Center
  • Judy Richmond - Vice President & Senior Associate General Counsel
  • Thomas Collamore - Senior Vice President, Communications and Strategy and Counselor to the President
  • Carl Grant - Chairman of the President's Advisory Group
  • Karen Alderman Harbert - President and CEO, Institute for 21st Century Energy
  • R. Bruce Josten - Executive Vice President, Government Affairs
  • Rob Engstrom - Senior Vice President, Political Affairs & Federation Relations and National Political Director
  • Randy Johnson - Senior Vice President, Labor, Immigration and Employee Benefits
  • William Kovacs - Senior Vice President, Environment, Technology and Regulatory Affairs
  • Marty Regalia - Senior Vice President and Chief Economist
  • Lisa Rickard - President, U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, President, Workforce Freedom Initiative, Executive Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • James Robinson - Senior Vice President and Counselor to the President
  • Margaret Spellings - President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
  • Al Martinez-Fonts - Executive Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
  • John Sullivan - Executive Director, Center for International Private Enterprise
  • Agnes Warfield-Blanc - Senior Vice President, Development


United States Chamber of Commerce
1615 H Street NW
Washington, DC 20062-2000
Telephone: 202 659-6000
Fax: 202 463-5836
Website: http://www.uschamber.com/

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

External Resources

External Articles

See U.S. Chamber of Commerce:External articles


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