The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is, as they boast on its website, the world's largest business organization, as well as the nation's largest corporate lobbying group. It is also a recipient of some of the largest amounts of so-called "dark" money in the country, refusing to disclose to the public its donors or even the amounts it receives.
Lisa Gilbert, Director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch and U.S. Chamber Watch, was certainly on point when she said that "...the American people deserve to know more about who's behind this powerful force in politics."
Public Citizen recently released an eye-popping report titled "The Gilded Chamber,"written by Sam Jewler, which provides plenty of information on the Chamber's relatively small number of donors and the scandalous amounts of money they give -- it is a worthwhile, if scary, read. The Chamber, along with other business leagues, local chambers of commerce, boards of trade, real estate boards and, yes, even the NFL, are all considered "non-profit" 501(c)6 organizations in the eyes of the I.R.S., which grants such organizations virtually unlimited access to money that they use to lobby Congress and its committees. The Chamber cannot engage in any activity considered to be "for profit," so instead it must support itself through donations and membership dues, with its stated goal being the bettering of business conditions for a particular trade or community. Of course, with the bulk of its donations coming from the 1 percent, one has to wonder just how much of the Chamber's efforts are being devoted to the representation of those small mom-and-pop businesses it supposedly champions.
Clearly, though, those donations are coming in by the bushelful these days, since the CEO of the Chamber, Thomas "Tom" J. Donohue, was paid $4.7 million himself in 2010, as reported by The Huffington Post's own Amanda Terkel. We can certainly assume that his pay package has risen significantly since then as he continues to turn the Chamber into a worldwide political behemoth. His travels are also no doubt made easier with his chauffeur-driven limo and leased jet, as well as the 17 vice presidents of the Chamber, who are also surely well-compensated, which raises the question -- just who is not profiting in this supposed non-profit? Certainly its corporate donors and their investors are also doing very well these days, along with the CEOs of those companies.
In the upcoming 2014 elections, Mr. Donohue has "vowed to work to 'expand a pro-business majority in the House and advance our position in the Senate,' and indicated the Chamber could challenge lawmakers the group feels has gone against business interests." One can hope that this means they will also oppose some tea party candidates, but let's be real: This is a Conservative organization that openly supports the G.O.P. and opposes Democrats, so the chances of them picking a Dem over any Republican are next to nil. In the 2012 election cycle, the Chamber became even bolder in advancing their agenda, sponsoring ads for the first time - through so-called "independent expenditures" -- urging people to vote for or against candidates. In the 2010 cycle, the Chamber spent $33 million on electioneering communications, becoming the largest-spending organization among all those that were not national party committees.
The Chamber claims to represent over three million businesses, but Public Citizen's remarkable study raises serious questions about just who and how many the Chamber really does represent, and how much small businesses interest they are actually addressing. Arguably, very little, as clearly a small business cannot donate on the level of the fat-cat donors that keep the Chamber humming. Public Citizen's study analyzed the 2012 tax returns of the Chamber and its affiliate, The Institute for Legal Reform - which works to limit consumers' legal rights -- and found that only 1,523 businesses and other entities combined to donate $169.4 million to the Chamber that year, while 96 businesses and entities gave $43.6 million to The Institute for Legal Reform. Just 64 donors contributed more than half of the itemized revenue of the Chamber in 2012. All of these contributions were of $500,000 or more, with a disproportionately large amount coming from just a few dozen contributors -- none of whom, I imagine, were small business owners.
Even Mr. Donahue himself admitted as much in a letter to a Philip Morris executive in 1997, noting that small businesses "...provide the foot soldiers, and often the political cover, for issues big companies want pursued," according to the March/April issue of Public Citizen News. It is interesting to note that the calculations for this report were based on an analysis of an itemized list of contributions of $5,000 or more, which must be given to the I.R.S. and made available to the public upon request. However, the Chamber may remove donors' names from these lists, which it does. The "Gilded Chamber" report also reveals a stunningly small number of entities that made those donations, from $5,000 all the way up to $5,000,000 and more.
Employees of the Chamber have held seats on numerous advisory committees to Congress, so their reach into the legislative branch of our government extends far and wide. Their main lobbying issues are torts, finance, regulation "reform," copyright laws, patents and trademarks, banking, law enforcement and crime, federal budgets and appropriations, taxes, immigration, trade, energy and the environment. They oppose efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions through the Clean Air Act, as well as opposing the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. Instead, they suggest that India and China should address these issues, not us.
They want lower taxes, deficit reduction and public lands opened to fracking and oil exploration, as well as supporting the Keystone XL pipeline. They call for so-called "entitlement" reform (which are actually our hard-earned benefits), "modernizing the regulatory process" -- especially in the financial sector -- in order to boost the "free" market, and advancing American innovation by protecting intellectual property. They support "fixing the flaws in Obamacare" and having the U.S. enter into more trade deals like the truly awful Trans-Pacific Partnership, while opposing any immigration reform that would endanger the pool of cheap labor they exploit to do those jobs that supposedly Americans don't want. The Chamber further opposes paid sick days for workers, and opposes raising the minimum wage, even though such a raise would give those workers more buying power to purchase products from the Chambers' benefactors -- they should support this.
On the Chamber's website, the word "reform" appears in relation to many issues, but few details are offered on just what kind of "reform" is being sought, so you can imagine that it is likely just a euphemism for "elimination" in most cases. These are just a few of the goodies listed on the Chamber's site under U.S. Policy Priorities for 2014, which includes under the category "Elections and Grassroots Advocacy" the statement that the Chamber will "(o)ppose attempts to limit the ability of the business community to engage in the electoral and policy making arenas at the federal and state level," as well as a call to action for its supporters to "(p)lay an aggressive role in candidate recruitment and primaries to attract pro-business candidates with general election appeal."
Politically active non-profits have become a major force in the past three election cycles, and now, with the new sibling of Citizens United named McCutcheon being unleashed on the American people by the Supreme Court a few weeks ago, donations will be arriving at these organizations by the truckload. Surely there is something for the I.R.S. to look into here, wouldn't you think?
For more information on this subject, check out the Chamber's 2014 agenda,influenceexplorer.com, The Project On Government Oversight, opensecrets.org, and the Sunlight Foundation.
Original article on Huffington Post
Green = Most Legislators Oppose Fast Track, Yellow = Some Opposition, Orange = Oppose TPP, Gray = UnknownDeLauro 13 - Signed 2013 DeLauro/Miller letterPocan - Signed Freshman Letter Opposing Fast TrackW/M - Signed Ways and Means Letter opposing TPPGibson - Signed Rep. Chris Gibson letter opposing TPP SOPA - Oppose Stop Online Piracy Act - voted against Currency - Oppose Currency Manipulation (Signed Michaud Letter) Textile - Oppose changes to "First Yarn" (Signed Textile Industry Letter)
We'll be back in September
Our special guest tonight is Rep. Jim McGovern. Rep. McGovern has long been a friend to working people, an advocate for Fair Trade, and a champion for economic equality. We'll talk about the future of trade agreements, and get his take on the current state of TPP and Fast Track leading into Congress' recess week and the next round of TPP talks. Join the Webinar at http://www.anymeeting.com/moveforjustice1
The world of international trade negotiators is an increasingly secret one, with even other agencies of national governments not fully aware of what is being offered by their negotiators in such deals. One current example is a pending "trade" deal called the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), which is being negotiated among 50 countries, including the United States, the EU, Australia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Peru, South Korea, and Switzerland. This agreement is apparently supposed to be "classified" information – in other words, secret and unknown to the public that will be affected by it – for a full five years after it is enters into force or the negotiations are terminated!
Embattled WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange announced Wednesday from London the publication of a secret draft text of the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), a controversial global trade agreement said to make it easier for corporations to make profits and operate with impunity across borders.
You can win some impressive victories against corporate power on the local level. Boulder voters declared that corporations aren’t people and money isn’t speech. Cities across Colorado (and other states) have passed fracking bans and moratoriums.
Don't fast-track this deal
President Barack Obama was in Asia recently, desperately trying to broker support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership despite growing opposition at home and abroad. This secretly negotiated "free trade" agreement would encompass 40 percent of the global economy and change the face of trade for many years to come.
A rebellion is breaking out in the Democratic Party, but it’s not like the 1960s when the party was torn apart over the Vietnam War and civil rights for blacks. In those days, Democrats were united in support of the New Deal/Great Society approach to economics. Today, the situation is reversed. There isn’t any significant split over foreign policy or social issues. Now Democrats are divided over economics.
Many supporters of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, trade agreement are arguing that its fate rests on President Obama's bilateral talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan this week. If Japan and the United States can sort out market access issues for agriculture and automobiles, the wisdom goes, this huge deal — in effect, a North American Free Trade Agreementon steroids — can at last be concluded.
Critics of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—a massive trade agreement being negotiated by the United States, Canada, Japan, Singapore and other Pacific Rim countries—say that pro-trade business lobbyists have rolled out misleading polling data in an attempt to demonstrate public support for the deal that isn’t there.
WASHINGTON — Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Friday acknowledged that Congress will not grant President Obama fast-track trade promotion authority, which analysts say is critical to the president’s hopes to forge huge trade deals with Asia and Europe.
“The President said, if you like your health insurance, you can keep it,” says Curtis Ellis of the American Jobs Alliance, a small conservative group based in Virginia that opposes the outsourcing of U.S. jobs overseas. “Now essentially, with Obamatrade, he’s saying, if you like your job, you can keep it.”
WASHINGTON -- The fast track trade bill introduced in the Senate last week will go nowhere anytime soon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday.
No matter what your top issue is, we can all agree that decisions that affect all of us should not be made in secret without input from the public. The Camp-Baucus Fast Track bill would limit the ability of Congress to meaningfully debate and amend trade agreements.
If President Obama uses his State of the Union address to launch a major push for “fast-track” authority to bypass congressional input and oversight on a sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, he will need new allies to generate support around the country.
In his upcoming State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama is expected to prioritize what is emerging as his legacy issue: combatting America's growing wealth inequality. Expect him to promote policies to create new middle-class jobs, especially in manufacturing, and counter the erosion of wages now undermining workers economy-wide.
But in the speech, Obama is also expected to highlight several major trade initiatives, including his priority Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal, a massive pact with 11 Asian and Latin American nations that Obama hopes to sign quickly. The business lobby is at full tilt pushing Obama to use the SOTU to call on Congress to pass Fast Track trade authority for the TPP.
StopFastTrack.com highlights how secretive trade deal "threatens everything you care about: democracy, jobs, the environment, and the Internet."
With the launch of StopFastTrack.com, the organizations highlight how renewal of Fast Track legislation, also known as Trade Legislation Authority, would take away Congress' democratic power in deliberating and amending the TPP, which thus far has been negotiated behind closed doors, with the only information about it being provided through leaks.
Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairman Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said that increasing the power of unions is key to addressing income inequality in America.
No matter what line of work you’re in, you should be watching the debate over the emerging trade deal called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) very closely.
It’s going to impact the American economy as much as NAFTA, and whatever version gets approved is going to be with us for a very long time.
Please join our Twitter storm on Tuesday, January 14th at 9pm Eastern. You can use the PDA map to find out what TPP issues are of interest/concern to your Congress Member.
Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Representative Dave Camp (R-Mich.) have officially introduced fast-track trade authority legislation in Congress. Fast track is a process that bypasses Congress’ constitutional role in the treaty process. Fast track prohibits amendments to a trade treaty, limits Congress’ right to debate and requires an up-or-down vote (even though Senate Republicans have filibustered more than 400 other times since President Obama took office) within 90 days of the treaty coming before the Congress.
Hard work, smart planning and perseverance made 2013 a year of inspiring fair-trade activism. Vibrant grassroots activism and dogged D.C. advocacy resulted in a new level of public and congressional concern about the perils of Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
A billion-dollar showdown is looming in Central America this week as a Calgary-based mining company announced it will sue the country of Costa Rica, infuriating residents who say their sovereignty is being taken away.
Infinito Gold was hoping to operate an open-pit gold mine in the Crucitas region of Costa Rica’s north.
Negotiators fail to close deal amid revelations of internal discord over US corporate bullying. The Obama administration's pro-corporate Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agenda appears to have missed a deadline.
First global trade deal in 20 years to boost world commerce 'favours big business at the expense of developing countries' The World Trade Organisation has sealed its first global trade deal after almost 160 ministers who had gathered on the Indonesian island of Bali agreed to reforms to boost world commerce.
Developing countries including India win concessions but critics say World Trade Organisation is no forum for helping the poor. The first global trade deal since the creation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) nearly two decades ago was condemned by anti-poverty groups on Friday as a boost for big business at the expense of developing nations.
A new caucus of supporters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement under negotiation was launched yesterday in the US Congress.
The Friends of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) caucus is headed by four co-chairman: Republican Reps. David Reichert of Washington and Charles Boustany of Louisiana, and Democratic Reps. Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Gregory Meeks of New York.
Outside Salt Lake City’s Grand America Hotel on Tuesday, the rains fell, the speakers rose, the marchers chanted.
Inside, top trade negotiators from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations perhaps discussed imports and exports, profits and products, prices and patents. The exact topics aren’t known. The talks were closed.
We wrote yesterday that this deal, the Trans Pacific Partnership, already looked to be in trouble given both Congressional and foreign opposition. The Administration has conducted the talks with an unheard-of degree of secrecy, with Congressional staffers in most cases denied access to the text and even Congressmen themselves facing unheard-of obstacles (Alan Grayson reported that the US Trade Representative created an absurd six weeks of dubious delays in his case).
The New York Times reported serious worry in the U.S. Congress about the Trans Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP for short), a massive new free trade deal being pushed by the United States with the involvement of 11 other countries on both sides of the Pacific. About 170 Congresspersons have signed on to one or more of three letters which oppose fast track status forthe deal.
Today, 151 Democratic members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to President Obama laying out their concerns about the lack of consultation during the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations and their opposition to “fast tracking” the deal without any meaningful congressional input. House Democrats joined the growing chorus of some 194 members of Congress who have publicly expressed their frustrations with this massive trade agreement.
To hear lawmakers tell it, efforts to move trade legislation through the House Ways and Means Committee, while earnest and ongoing, have hit snags in the 113th Congress.
Several big pieces of legislation are slowly winding their way through the committee, including bills dealing with trade-promotion authority and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Ten score and thirteen years ago corporate forefathers began conquering wilderness, steam, gas, oil, electricity, transcontinental rails and airways communication, prospering by quenching America’s thirst for more, better, faster. Now we who built it, want more, faster, so thinking locally, we trade globally. Thus unlike you, we will always have money to eat.
President Barack Obama has demanding a ‘trade promotion authority’ from the United States Congress to fast-track the Pacific Rim treaty, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The fast-track authority plays a pivotal role in determining the extent to which the United States Congress can engage in a critical review of trade agreements.
How the Trans Pacific Partnership making its way through Washington seriously undermines citizens’ rights to participate in a free and open Internet. One month. That’s the time left before the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could become a finalized agreement.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership would create a virtually permanent corporate rule over the people. What if our national leaders told us that communities across America had to eliminate such local programs as Buy Local, Buy American, Buy Green, etc. to allow foreign corporations to have the right to make the sale on any products purchased with our tax dollars?
Protesters scaled the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on Monday and dropped banners calling for greater transparency and an end to "corporatocracy" over the ongoing and secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement currently in the works between the United States and several Pacific nations.
New warnings on TPP, free trade 'regime' fostering 'global emergency situation'
As secretive talks over the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)—the pending free trade agreement slammed as "NAFTA on steroids" and "a quiet coup for the investor class"—continue, new warnings highlight the corporate winners and global losers at stake.
President Obama has asked Congress to provide “Fast Track” authorization for consideration of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) a new “free trade” deal.
The negotiations for this new “free trade” agreement have been conducted in secret. Members of Congress as well as the public have no factual information about the contents of this deal.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed agreement between the U.S. and 12 nations that do business throughout the Pacific Rim. TPP and its European cousin the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (aka TAFTA), are "free trade" agreements that do much more than the term implies.
The US pharmaceutical industry has been shaping elements of the Obama administration’s secret Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement to favor their own profits. But the deal could also could cause the price of prescription drugs and some medical devices to soar on a global scale.
Pocan urges Congress not to give up its constitutional authority to oversee foreign trade agreements
Progressive Democrats in Congress are ramping up pressure on the Obama administration to release the text of Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secretive free trade agreement with 10 other nations, amid intensifying controversy over the administration's transparency record and its treatment of classified information.
CWA devised a simple plan for which they were uniquely suited: drag TPP out of the shadows and into the light - one city at a time - using a medium they understand intimately: Daily Newspapers!
Two CWA members - Dave Felice in Denver, CO and Madelyn Elder in Portland, OR have started the ball rolling. We just need to keep up the momentum leading up to a big day of petition deliveries.
Step 1 is to send an Op-Ed to your Daily Newspaper.
If you have a Twitter account you can help stop Fast Track on the TPP. Sign-in to your Twitter account and copy and paste the Tweets from our Twitter storm. Or you can copy your favorite Tweet and then click on the map and Tweet your legislator.
Twitter Storm Tweets for Tuesday, January 28th @ 9pm Eastern
Tweets for the special State of the Union Twitter Storm will be posted on January 28th at 8pm EST. Check back for the new Tweets.
Click here to quickly find your member of Congress by putting in your home address. This site also features a one-click link to the same information in Spanish
Then call and ask them to oppose Fast Track on the Trans Pacific Partnership.
Sample script is below.
“I'm a constituent, and I am strongly opposed to my representative giving away Congress’ constitutional authority to control our trade policy. We send people to Congress to stand up for us, not give away their power to stop more American job offshoring and protect us from dangerous imported food that doesn’t meet our safety standards. This latest so-called trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), would not only do that - but also ban Buy American and increase our medicine prices. That’s why it’s crucial that Congress not give away its authority to make sure every provision of TPP is in our interest before this massive deal can be signed. Good trade deals don’t need to be railroaded through Congress using Fast Track. I hope my representative will commit to opposing this outrageous legislation.”
Send an email directly to your Senators and Representatives courtesy of our partners at CWA. Enter your zip code and your members are automatically selected.
Please let us know your legislator's stance on Fast Track Authorization for the Trans Pacific Partnership as well as their stance on the TPP in General. Click here to report the response.
Congress only has one more week in session this year, the week of December 9. So far our pressure to stop the TPP has been working. Visit Flush the TPP for calling scripts and links to Members of the Ways and Means Committee.
Flush the TPP
The following documents are available from the Oppose TPP Downloads Folder
June 29th TPP Powerpoint
CWA TPP Jobs Report