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Jim Worth Headshot

Is the Chamber of Commerce a Subversive Organization?

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"The U.S. Chamber of Commerce campaigns against democracy and America!"

With elections only days away this headline should run everyday in newspapers, magazines, on television and cable and shouted on the radio, accompanied by articles and segments naming the corporations like Dow Chemical, Prudential Insurance, Chevron Texaco, Goldman Sachs, and Aegon, exposing the millions of dollars they've given to the Chamber which has been converted to partisan ads, many of them dishonestly negative.

Recent actions of the Chamber of Commerce risk causing irreversible damage to our economy and our precious democracy.

Thanks to the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court nine months ago the Chamber of Commerce is pumping millions of dollars into mid-term campaigns -- dollars meant to influence close races throughout the country -- without having to name the donors.

Their actions are negatively affecting the very democracy they claim to embrace and instead of helping small businesses the candidates they're supporting could destroy them.

Outsourcing of jobs for the past 10 years has been one of the major factors in our high unemployment levels of the last few years. The economy is near the breaking point under the weight of these unsustainable unemployment and underemployed numbers. The Chamber of Commerce is the leading advocate of outsourcing and one of the major reasons unemployment remains near 10%. It is also the reason so many small businesses are failing.

The Chamber of Commerce's global approach to business and advocacy of outsourcing is killing small business in the United States. It is in direct contradiction to the Chamber's mission statement which reads:

"To advance human progress through an economic, political and social system based on individual freedom, incentive, opportunity, and responsibility."

The change of political focus under Thomas Donohue in favor of huge corporations has irresponsibly destroyed the economy for small business which negatively affects most of their 300,000 members nationwide.

Ninety-six percent of their membership are small businesses with 100 employees or less. A corporate agenda is in stark opposition to the needs of small business. Small businesses' problem is one of demand. The Chamber's divisive political activities do nothing to address member's needs.

In the New York Times article by Eric Lipton, Mike McIntire, and Don Van Natta, "Top Corporations Aid U.S. Chamber of Commerce Campaign," the authors expose the breadth of secret donations from giant corporations, including foreign contributors, to undermine federal regulations -- even those that would favor American citizens and small business over corporate interests.

Mr. Donohue, who received $3.7 million last year while member businesses across the nation struggled, announced that the Chamber is intending to spend as much as $75 million "to carry out the largest, most aggressive voter education and issue advocacy effort in our country in our nearly 100 years," while Republicans on Capitol Hill filibuster, stalling small business legislation that would help those businesses survive the economic morass that the Republicans caused.

But, to many observers, it is neither education nor issue advocacy. It is merely propaganda, spreading a tainted message with lies and half-truths.

The Chamber has abandoned its pro-business principals and shunned its initial charge of enhancing a healthy small business environment by trying to subvert good legislation for its members in favor of a corporatist position.

While Chamber CEO and executives argue that government stimulus fails to create jobs they spend millions in support of candidates that consistently vote against helpful small business tax relief and job creating legislation aimed at small businesses.

The Chamber hierarchy believe that gifts from national and foreign corporations are necessary to 'remake Congress' on Election Day to make it friendlier to business, while creating a negative political environment with vitriolic ads that undermine the integrity of the Chamber and bring its principals into question.

The current direction and arrogance of the Chamber's executive board risks alienating its members. Local organizations are being told by national political director William C. Miller Jr, "it's been a long and ugly campaign season, filled with partisan and political squabbling." What he doesn't tell members is that most of it has been created by them.

He further exclaims, "we are so close to bringing about historic change to Capitol Hill."

Miller may be right about change, but it will be change its membership will not like. Most of the candidates the Chamber has supported are unqualified to govern but the Chamber is more interested in their malleability; pliable candidates obligated under the weight of the Chamber's unconventional support.

Local affiliates should be deeply concerned by the partisanship of the national arm of the organization, 90% of the $75 million directed to Republican candidates. They should aggressively question whether supported candidates are committed to a small business agenda.

But, more disturbing should be the Chamber's destructive use of lies, innuendo, and hatred in their ads against candidates throughout the country. The Supreme Court's heinous Citizen's United decision did not give the Chamber free rein to spew hatred and lies. Their decision has unleashed a level of hatred from which this country may never recover.

The Chamber's national office is far removed from the good works of the local Chambers of Commerce. Local chapters would do well to reject the Chamber's subversive activities by shedding the national body and continuing their good work with members in their own communities.

Write the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and tell them to end their destructive agenda, NOW!