WASHINGTON -- The labor-backed advocacy group U.S. Chamber Watch is taking aim at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a new report, arguing that the industry group's aggressive lobbying effort to extend the Bush tax cuts is less about creating jobs for businesses and more about lining the pockets of wealthy corporate CEOs who would personally gain from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.
"Let's be clear: The US Chamber isn't fighting to extend the Bush tax cuts because it helps small businesses (it doesn't) or the vast majority of its members (nope); it merely helps Chamber CEOs like Rupert Murdoch, JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon and Wellpoint's Angela Braly who sleep easier knowing they'll be able to afford that extra private jet," said Chamber Watch spokesperson Christy Setzer. "The US Chamber has thrown its Main Street members under the bus to protect the wallets of its wealthiest CEOs."
From the key findings compiled by Chamber Watch and the liberal public policy organization Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) (emphasis ours):
-- Rupert Murdoch, the CEO of News Corporation, whose donation of $1 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce led to well-publicized shareholder outrage, would pocket more than $1.3 million.
-- Don Blankenship, a former U.S. Chamber Board member and the CEO of Massey Energy, whose company owned the mine in which twenty-nine miners died in April 2010's mining disaster, the worst in forty years, would take home more than $700,000.
-- David Cote, the CEO of Honeywell and a member of the National Fiscal Commission, who keynoted an address to the National Chamber Foundation expressing concern about the national debt over the next ten years, would get a tax cut of over $1.2 million.
-- CEOs of big banks on Wall Street who helped collapse the economy and then used the U.S. Chamber to fight stronger financial regulations stand to reap between $700,000 and $1.6 million each.
-- The CEOs of the health insurance industry, whose industry saw an overall increase in profits this year even while they slashed benefits and instituted breathtaking premium increases, are looking to personally benefit from another hit on the middle class by taking in between $335,000 and $875,000.
-- U.S. Chamber president and CEO, Thomas Donohue, who has shifted the Chamber's mission from serving mainstream business to serving the interests of the CEOs whose corporations write the biggest checks, will personally gain over $200,000.
In its lobbying efforts, the Chamber has said that raising taxes on any Americans during an economic downturn hurts recovery. "The Chamber believes that no one should have their taxes raised during a time of economic weakness -- not individuals, not small businesses, not large businesses," wrote Bruce Josten, the Chamber's executive vice president for Government Affairs, in a Nov. 15 letter to members of Congress. "Job creators are especially sensitive to tax rates and any tax increase right now would only hinder the already too weak recovery."
In an email to The Huffington Post, a Chamber spokesman argued that the burden of increased taxes on high-income earners will fall on the entire economy. "When high-income taxpayers have to pay higher taxes, many mitigate their new tax burden by reducing investment income, which leads to lower job creation," the staffer wrote. "The chain reaction results in fewer opportunities and smaller salaries for lower-income workers."
Chamber Watch, however, points to a January report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which identified tax cuts as the least effective of the measures currently on the table to create jobs.
CTJ Director Robert McIntyre noted that extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans wouldn't affect companies' bottom lines anyway.
"In the case here, where we're looking at executives of big companies, they're not hiring people with their own money, they're hiring people with the companies' money," he told The Huffington Post. "Are they saying that if they don't get paid -- if their after-tax income goes down a little bit -- that their company won't hire people?"
A few CEOs have been coming out and publicly arguing against extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, with billionaire Warren Buffett recently saying that people like him should be paying much more in taxes.