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U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Does Not Have Three Million Members

First Posted: 03/18/10 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 03:30 PM ET

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has long claimed "an underlying membership of more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region."

But after Mother Jones investigated that claim, the Chamber apparently backed off the inflated number and claimed only 300,000 members in a press conference.

Subsequent press releases, however, have carried the usual boilerplate statement that "The U.S. Chamber is the world's largest business federation representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region."

LobbyBlog asked Chamber spokesman J.P. Fielder for clarification. He explained that the Chamber makes a distinction between its actual members and a broader business constituency.

"The Chamber represents more than 3 million businesses and organizations," wrote Fielder. "We have more than 300,000 members."

This is exactly the distinction New Yorker biz columnist James Surowiecki suggested the Chamber might make after MoJo popped its bubble.

"The Chamber might conceivably try to wiggle out of this by saying that it does 'represent' these businesses even if they aren't official members," Surowiecki wrote in a column titled "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce: Now 90% Smaller."

The distinction so far is lost on the Associated Press, which called the Chamber a "3 million-member business federation" in a Monday story.

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