THE BLOG
10/09/2013 04:17 pm ET | Updated Dec 09, 2013

Chamber of (Con) Commerce

The United States Chamber of Commerce is lobbying for legislation to cap whistleblower awards. Their perverse justification is that capping awards is good for business. The cap is part of the Chamber's legislative agenda that seeks to weaken the whistleblower laws that spur the exposure of the waste and fraud that drain the coffers of the federal Treasury and hurt the economy from top to bottom.

The Chamber of Commerce is a Capitol Hill colossus, spending $136 million on lobbying in 2012, money raised via the dues businesses pay their local chapters. It sponsors an annual summit that allows small business owners to mingle with their Washington representatives. But the Chamber isn't helping Main Street when it discourages whistleblowing, as waste and fraud siphons off tax dollars that could be spent by tax payers at local businesses.

Legitimate business people should be outraged that the Chamber would actually work to put honest companies at a disadvantage by discouraging people from turning in the dishonest ones. The toleration of criminality inherent in weakened whistleblowing laws essentially creates an unfair competitive advantage for unscrupulous companies.

The Chamber's agenda has likely already discouraged many would-be corporate whistleblowers, thus limiting the exposure of fraud and dampening the recovery of looted taxpayer monies. For honest business people who are frustrated by the disadvantages sometimes inherent in playing by the rules, they can thank their local Chamber chapters.

At this point, nobody should expect bipartisan agreement on tax or spending reform, but this is one area where taxpayers should expect unanimity. Congress needs to commit itself to eliminating waste and fraud. Yet, most members haven't even paid lip service to cracking down on those looting their voters, even as a means of posturing for photo opportunities with the press. They ignore what should be an uncontroversial avenue for raising revenue.

The recovery and reinvestment of tax monies lost to wrongdoers could do more to balance the budget than all the cuts floated as part of a "Grand Deal" on deficit reduction. Proposed budget cuts often represent legitimate constituencies with legitimate claims, and these constituencies have their lobbyists and defenders on the Hill.

But what of the corporate fraudster? What legitimacy do they have? Morally, none. Yet, they have a lobbyist and defender on The Hill: The United States Chamber of Commerce. Not only does the Chamber champion a cap on awards to whistleblowers exposing the scams that bleed the taxpayer, it works to weaken whistleblower laws that serve as a tourniquet for the leakage of our tax dollars via waste and fraud.

Any legislator that doesn't admonish the Chamber of Commerce and vehemently oppose their pro-corruption agenda might as well say that they support the corporate looting of the very people that voted them into office. Politicians must be served notice that anything short of the outright rejection of the Chamber's stand on whistleblower laws will be construed as complicity with fraudsters.

In the movie Chinatown, Noah Cross, a character symbolizing corruption, memorably says, "Politicians, ugly buildings and whores all get respectable if they last long enough." The constituencies targeted by proposed budget cuts have lasted long enough in Washington to become respectable, which makes it hard to achieve meaningful progress on balancing the budget and avoiding fiscal collapse. If the Chamber has its way, fraud will become a respectable business as well.