The right-wing U.S. Chamber of Commerce is living a lie: It does the bidding of big business's baddest boys, but maintains its standing by exploiting the good names of local chambers of commerce and myriad ma and pa shops on Main Streets across America.
You've heard about the gobs of corporate -- and sometimes foreign -- money the U.S. Chamber used to buy the 2010 elections, but they're also blowing money that you've spent at your favorite local businesses: Countless small businesses send money to the U.S. Chamber through their memberships to local chambers of commerce. (Check out U.S. Chamber Watch for a more complete accounting of the money, and regular reports on what flavor sucker Tom Donahue just swiped off the latest toddler to waddle within arm's reach.)
Thankfully, the public outrage at the Chamber's political manipulation is having an impact. Last month we told you about a New Hampshire chapter that decided to quit the U.S. Chamber. That local's vice president had this to say at the time: "I don't believe we lose anything... As far as I'm concerned, I could not find one positive thing to say about being involved in the U.S. Chamber."
More encouraging news came this week as Politico reported that:
More than 40 local chambers issued statements during the midterms distancing themselves from the U.S. Chamber's campaign -- including nearly every major local chamber in Iowa and New Hampshire, key states for the presidential campaign.
Other chambers plan to take the extraordinary step of ending their affiliation with the U.S. Chamber, including the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce in Pennsylvania. Its leaders reported being inundated with angry -- and sometimes profanity-laced -- telephone calls from people objecting to the U.S. Chamber-backed ads.
These defections are critical: The U.S. Chamber uses its chapters' money and the false presumption that it's working on behalf of local businesses to help push its radical right-wing agenda: bailouts for banks, internet censorship, and an end to environmental protection, public health care, and social security. Small comfort for the grocer, barber, and florist around the corner.
The Chamber can seem untouchable, but we can fight back by urging defections, cutting off an important revenue stream, tarnishing the organization's brand, and making it a little tougher for it to get lawmakers to do its bidding.