How the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Became the Greatest Enemy of America

People tend to view the Chamber of Commerce in the same colors as the Rotary Club or the Knights of Columbus: officious do-gooders lending a helpful hand in the name of economy and country. It's a largely accurate assessment — at least on the local level.

In Davenport, Iowa, it means hosting music festivals like River Roots Live, a "quality of life initiative" that brings 30,000 people downtown each year, says Jennifer Walker of the Quad Cities chamber.

In Largo, Florida, it means introducing the small and struggling to the guys with all the money. "They want to meet heads of the hospitals, heads of the banks, so they can generate business from one another," says the president of that city's chamber, Tom Morrissette.

In Pasadena, California, it means pushing a business agenda without the sectarian shrieking of Washington. "We can still go for a beer after work and talk about our kids," says chamber president Paul Little.

These are sainted duties. Local chambers chiefly represent small businesses, which collectively make for the nation's largest and most stable employer. After all, the florist and the restaurateur are more likely to sponsor a softball team than ship their jobs to Indonesia. Neither is prone to demanding public welfare under threat of bolting for Tennessee.

The local chambers are their cheerleaders, providing mercantile expertise, all with a cheerful disposition built to illuminate the possible.

But that reputation is smeared by their national umbrella group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It's quietly become the baddest bully in Washington. And its behavior is causing dozens of locals — and some of America's most prominent companies — to flee its ranks.

Think of the U.S. Chamber as your crazy Uncle Ed. He spent too much time listening to talk radio, developed a raging victim complex, and came to believe that the country was getting destroyed by sloth and moochery. So he formed a lobbying group to defend the one true antidote: free enterprise.

Over the past century, the U.S. Chamber has sounded a lot like Ed when he's surrounded by a battalion of vanquished Budweisers.

The national organization was against America's rush to stop Hitler in World War II. It called Franklin Roosevelt's remedies for the Great Depression, among them Social Security, an attempt to "Sovietize" America. After the war, it cheered on Joe McCarthy's hunt for imaginary Commies.

More recently, the U.S. Chamber fought against civil rights, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and safeguards for gays and lesbians. At one point, it even championed the need to discriminate against pregnant employees.

The Chamber is against workplace safety, regulating pollution, paid family leave, and banning chemicals that cause birth defects.

The group's guiding principle: If it might help regular people, the Chamber considers it heresy. Free enterprise should be absolutely free, this logic goes, even if it turns the country into Rwanda with nicer Burger Kings. Anything less is an outrage.

"They've been on the wrong side of every issue in U.S. history," says Auden Schendler, a vice president at Aspen Skiing Company who pushed his city's chamber to leave the national group.

Still, up until 1997, the U.S. Chamber enjoyed bipartisan respect in Washington. It was viewed as the Official Voice of Business, capable of playing amiably with others. But it also was losing members, money, and effectiveness.

That year, Tom Donohue became its new CEO. If the old Chamber was crazy Ed, Donohue's version would be Sean Hannity on steroids, with a monster war chest and a prime-time audience.

Donohue, the former head of a trucking trade group, instinctively understood Washington's unofficial law — namely, if you dole out millions of dollars to punctuate each sentence, you suddenly don't sound that weird anymore.

So he traveled the country, grubbing donations from the largest companies. His goal, as he wrote at the time, was to "build the biggest gorilla in this town."

And he did.

In 1997, the year that Donohue arrived, the Chamber spent $17 million on lobbying. Today, that figure approaches $140 million annually, three times the purse of the next-biggest congressional manipulator, the National Association of Realtors.

"They're kind of the poster child for how big business and the super-rich are able to control the agenda in Washington," says Jake Parent, who runs the "U.S. Chamber Watch" website at Public Citizen, a D.C. consumer group with 250,000 members.

Officially, the Chamber still fancies itself the Voice of American Business, a town crier advocating for small government, less regulation, and the miracle cure of free enterprise.

"We passionately believe it's time to stop apologizing for the one system in our society that actually works," Donohue said in his annual "State of American Business" speech in 2012.

But to raise the millions needed for his lobbying efforts, he had to beg from the only people with millions to give: America's mightiest corporations. And they, quite naturally, wanted a return on their investment.

Soon the U.S. Chamber began sounding less like the apostle of free markets and more like the official welfare agency of the golden-parachute set. Donohue called for drastic cuts to social programs. But he also wanted taxpayers to bail out BP after its Gulf spill, defended the oil industry's $12 billion annual welfare package, and was outworked by no one in protecting Wall Street banks with Too Big to Fail laws.

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26 comments
skookumjohn
skookumjohn

"The U.S. Chamber... launched a fusillade of attack ads claiming that Obamacare would give you everything but leprosy."


From where I sit, they were exactly right and I wish they had succeeded.

pat029
pat029

This is just the thing that happen when no body watches what why there headed and for this orgiznation no body has ever watched it  and its just run a muck .They can spend the millions but except for the republicans that would take money from the muslim terroist groups so you have to believe that most small business man or woman may join the the local but really do not go along with the national chapter or we would have the min. ware at 1.00a hour and even the strongest republican business man knows that would never work like "Henery Ford said if the manon the line can not aford the car he is building then it will all for not he has to be paid a fair wage to by our products" 

alexanderwanda
alexanderwanda

I am not a fan of the Chamber, especially their immigration policies, but this story is slanted leftward and highly inaccurate.

alexanderwanda
alexanderwanda

I am not a Chamber fan, but this story is not very accurate and it is highly tilted leftward.

Francisco Cortez
Francisco Cortez

Conservatism is the Cancer that's killing our Democracy.

Solly
Solly

In a whistleblower case I read about on Alternet, the US Chamber of Commerce apparently got $75 million in tax-exempt donations from multinational corporate donors to elect Republicans to the House in 2010.  That's how central USCOC is to the destruction of our democracy.  It's even rumored that the USCOC -- which requires each of its chapters here and abroad to tithe it a major share of their annual dues and fees -- also takes laundered money from foreign countries, a violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (for which people were shot in WW2).  But the IRS and Obama Administration seem to coddle the USCOC the same way they coddled the bankers on Wall Street.  No real convictions.  That's why no one outside the political class knows about the USCOC and how much it determines the political discourse in DC, the rest of the nation, and around the world.  Truly an evil organization.

rockdog48
rockdog48

Sorry,  but the Obama admin. is America's greatest enemy, along with the IRS, NSA and George Soros.   But their reign of terror and subjugation will end with the American Spring on May 16th of this yr.  Real Americans,  patriots by the millions will descend on DC to remove the nemesis.  And there is no doubt the criminal thugocracy in the Wh. will do everything in its power to undermine this event.   Americans can expect the thugs in the Wh. to cause another False Flag event or possibly with the Usurper declaring war somewhere in the world to take the attention off of the march on DC.  Or maybe they will even do something like they did at the Boston Marathon and infiltrate the citizens involved in the event.

scottsdalebubbe
scottsdalebubbe

Well-researched article.  Please forward it to Daily Kos so it can be more widely disseminated.  It's a story that needs to be told.


For a refreshingly progressive national pro-business group's opinions (the alternative C of C), go to American Sustainable Business Council - www.asbcouncil.org.  Locally, there is Local First Arizona that has chapters in both Phoenix and Tucson.


And, as an aside, the National Association of Realtors sees its interests as being the same as consumer's interests, for instance, the tax deduction for mortgage interest and the absence of a capital gains tax ($250,000 gain for a single person; $500,000 gain for a married couple) for selling one's primary residence.  Another side note:  now married gay couples who own a home together can benefit as a couple from these taxes for married people. 

Daron Nikki Petit
Daron Nikki Petit

The country IS being destroyed by sloth and moochery. Open your eyes.

david.is.farrar
david.is.farrar

"For when people's true political aspirations are accurately reflected by their political parties," as Frédéric Bastiat pointed out in his seminal work: 'The Law', "all will seek the common good." 

The US Chamber of Commerce doesn't just buy off Republicans. 

Washington Hides Its Illegal Immigration Goldmine Within Immigration Reform Economic Rhetoric

From Obama's SOTU speech: "Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades".

No specifics; just rhetoric about how "immigration reform" is so good for America.

Which America Mr. Obama? The America that had their jobs sent to Mexico because of Bill Clinton's NAFTA economics? The American that suffered the largest influx of undocumented aliens in American history after Clinton's promised NAFTA would solve illegal immigration?  Sourse: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ellen-r-shaffer/immigration-is-a-nafta-pr_b_642484.html

The America that struggles for health care as they are forced to stand in long hospital emergency room lines with the undocumented? The America that has seen unfair changes to their home town demographics because of Amnesty and NAFTA were shoved down their throats?

Don't forget Reagan's promises of Amnesty and how the enforcement sections of that fiasco would solve illegal immigration too.

Take the time to read VP Biden's September 20, 2013 speech made in Mexico to the Mexican economic elite. See how Biden raves to his counterparts about "our" illustrious economic future and how the US will bring the 11.2 million undocumented "out of the shadows".


These Washington immigration reform profiteers again are trying to hide their insidious system of profit-driven illegal immigration for labor and profit-driven immigration reform for border security billions within their lofty assertions of economic immigration reform. Just as Reagan's 1986 Amnesty and Clinton's 1994 NAFTA did.


These Washington immigration reform profiteers will reward some 11.2 million undocumented with 13 years of labor in exchange for possible US citizenship. (See Section 2101 of S.744). Meanwhile, what will it cost US taxpayers? Just scroll down below to Section 6 "Comprehensive Reform Funding" (a)(2)(A) to see the initial $46.3 billion tax payer price tag. Source: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/s744/text"/>Gov Track

And the shining representative example of what "immigration reform" is really about read how an extra $200 million dollars is slated for Arizona Prosecutions (S.744 Section 6 (a)(3)(C)(2)(B)(i) referenced in 1104(a)(1) and another $200 million more extra dollars for is slated for Arizona's and FEMA "Operation Stonegarden" (S.744 Section 6 (a)(3)(C)(2)(B)(ii) referenced in Section 1104(b).

Read how our own US Department of State raves about "our" shared 1.25 billion dollars a day in cross border trade with Mexico! Do you know that Mexico is also our 2nd largest source of oil? Source: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/35749.htm

Is it any wonder Washington caves in to illegal immigration?

Washington has sold America's Soul to their NAFTA to a diablo-trading partner to the south. The bi-national elite enrich themselves off of undocumented labor and US taxpayer's hard earned "border security" tax dollars.

This is exactly what Obama or Boehner will not discuss because that is at the heart of what drives "immigration reform". 

The truth is, both political parties are selling their political souls to the US Chamber of Commerce, while they work hard to keep their own grassroot supporters fired up against the other party's grass root. It's the old divide and conquer strategy being employed to keep the Occupy and Tea Party grass roots at each other throats, or they will be after the political elites of both parties.

ex animo

davidfarrar

Jukes
Jukes

Ah, here's the Catch-22:

"But under federal law, just pretending to play it straight is good enough."  

And who do we have most of all to thank for keeping that Federal law, as well as the recent Supreme Court decisions that declared "Corporations are people, too"?  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

We're currently the United States of Corporations and we're likely to stay that way as long as the Chamber is directing the full orchestra in Washington.  If the local groups had backbones they would stand up to these lies.  But I'm not expecting anything soon.  It's a brand that still has a benign name in the public's eye.

In the meanwhile, thanks for this comprehensive history of evil-doing.  I have found most Americans to be unaware of it and millions of them fall prey to the Chamber's lying advertisements. 

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

I thought the government in Mexico was a Federal Presidential Republic.  


(Frank - if you don't like smart-ass replies, perhaps you should refrain from making blatantly stupid comments.)

scottsdalebubbe
scottsdalebubbe

@rockdog48 Yadda, yadda, yadda, yadda.  Sorry you are original idea impaired and under the ether spewed out by Faux Snooze.  Just a wind up toy for the teathuglicants.  So you are going to commit treason on May 16?    Pity your form of grandiosity and insanity isn't curable.  

Notice to other readers -- this is the type of person who should NEVER be allowed to own or operate firearms.  Grandiosity = paranoid schizophrenic.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@scottsdalebubbe  "And, as an aside, the National Association of Realtors sees its interests as being the same as consumer's interests"


Utter nonsense.

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@scottsdalebubbe    "widely disseminated"?  what a freaking joke.  No one reads the "daily kos" but brain-dead, kool-aid drinking, soft-headed, liberal loons and a few welfare queens that can actually read.  


Here's a side note for you:  you are dumber than a frozen turd.  

RandyHill
RandyHill

@david.is.farrar Sorry David. It's very clear that more than 99% of illegal immigrants are just hard working people who want to escape the hells in mexico and south america. Getting them documented and on the tax rolls, having them able to walk around in broad daylight as well as cooperate with police with no fear of being deported, would make a HUGE difference. More tax revenues, fewer dumb police chases of people fleeing over immigration status, and faster arrests of the real bad guys who commit real crimes which means fewer crimes. 


My sister was murdered by an illegal immigrant, he went to prison, was deported, and immediately returned to the area. The police had their hands tied finding him since everyone in his community was afraid to cooperate with the police lest they get deported. I don't think he was every caught.


No matter what you want, Illegal immigrants are already here and they aren't leaving, the intelligent and humane thing to do is to provide a reasonable path to citizenship for those who work hard and contribute while they are here. If immigration was as tightly controlled a hundred/ two hundreds years ago as it is today, you and I probably wouldn't be here, at least not as legal  US Citizens. 


When you argue against treating illegals harshly, you are really arguing for the benefit of human smugglers and drug gangs that terrorize the border. Without our absurd immigration restrictions, human smugglers don't have a business so lucrative that it pays to arm them and incentivizes them to commit violence against competitors and "customers". Just as our absurd drug war arms drug gangs and gives them huge financial incentives to fight and murder to control the lucrative drug trade. I'm tired of innocent people being hurt and killed in the cross fire of our self inflicted black market gangs. 


And lastly, your screed against NAFTA and similar free trade measures is just as silly. Forcing US consumers to pay more just to keep low pay menial labor jobs in this country is as backwards as economics can get. The US is a huge beneficiary of free trade world wide, all those iPhones, iPads, Fords/GMs, Boeing planes, Microsoft Windows software, etc, etc, are snapped up eagerly by international consumers and make this country wealthier building, designing and selling the best products in the world. 


Apple alone employs close to 50,000 people in this country at very high wages, approaching $100k each a year to design, sell and support their devices. The most expensive part of every iPhone/iPad are made in a $10M Samsung plant in Texas. the ARM A7 CPU/GPU on a chip. Apple also is responsible for at least 200,000 more US jobs at partner businesses in the US, including software developers that Apple directly pays nearly a billion dollars a month. By assembling devices at the lowest possible cost in china (outsourcing a tiny fraction of the economic cost of the device, less than 5%), Apple is able to sell far more units world-wide and that means more ARM A7s from Texas, more jobs at Apple, more jobs at that Texas Samsung plant, and more jobs for US app/accessory developers. That's how free trade benefits this country.


Just because NAFTA didn't solve every single problem in Mexico, and because our other economic policies (high payroll taxes, massive and inefficient government spending) create massive widespread unemployment here, doesn't mean NAFTA isn't a big net plus for both countries. What is your problem with freedom in a country that was founded on and once prized it? You will be a happier and more rational person when you learn to trust people first until they demonstrate they don't deserve it, and when you do, you will find that well over 99% deserve it.

alexanderwanda
alexanderwanda

@dennis20 @alexanderwanda The statement about Berger King in Rwanda is anti-capitalism;  the statement approving of the Chamber's stance on gays and lesbians;  THAT's left-wing.  Why should the Chamber stick its nose in that issue?  I know:  To gain favor from the gay lobby. Free enterprise should be absolutely free?  I don't know about that, sounds exaggerated. Like I said, I am NO FAN of the CofC.  What's wrong with having a Burger King in Rwanda?  Maybe some people could have jobs.  Its better than starving.  The Chamber should stop lobbying the US Congress....that's bad.

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@scottsdalebubbe               Well now bub, aren't you a snotty little shit-stain!  

Slowriter59
Slowriter59

@RandyHill @david.is.farrar  No, NAFTA exported our manufacturing there, and their poverty here. Same thing with CAFTA. Now, they want to do the same thing with TPP, which really should be called Southern Hemispheric Asian Free Trade Agreement, but politically SHAFTA doesn't sell. (Thanks to Thom Hartmann at Real TV for that.)

skookumjohn
skookumjohn

@RandyHill @david.is.farrar  "It's very clear that more than 99% of illegal immigrants are just hard working people who want to escape the hells in mexico and south america. "


Problem is, they are turning our beautiful country into the same kind of hell they left.  Damn fools who live in Third World shit holes impoverished by socialism should not be voting for more socialism when they get here.

john043012
john043012 topcommenter

@RandyHill  Nice rant you seem like another limp wristed liberal who likes to blame the United States first . If you think the majority of illegal immigrants are going to buy into any type reform that requires them to pay taxes on their 9 dollar an hour jobs and get right with the law well you are living in la la land freak

Solly
Solly

@RandyHill @david.is.farrar  NAFTA was not responsible for the sale of iPhones nor does it bring other discernable benefits to American workers or workers in Canada and Mexico.  It's not about freedom, it's about commercial trade and how to exploit low wages and lax regulation in one regime as a lever to force similar policies in other regimes.  I couldn't keep up with the rest of your ramble, which betrayed a lot of pain.  Sorry that you were done wrong by an illegal who never was brought to justice.  If it's any consolation, there are plenty of gringo lawbreakers who are never brought to justice, also. Such corruption is pitiful wherever it occurs.  

 
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