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
MINNEAPOLIS—Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement today after Israeli and Hamas officials announced they had agreed to an open-ended ceasefire.
“I am happy and relieved with yesterday’s ceasefire agreement,” Rep. Ellison said. “I call on all parties to comply with the agreement and refrain from further violence. It is time to move forward with negotiations and diplomacy that will ultimately end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
GAZA CITY — Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday reached a long-term cease-fire after seven weeks of fighting, according to officials on both sides, halting the longest, bloodiest battle either side has experienced in years — but without resolving many of the bigger issues underlying the conflict.
When Congress returns from recess on September 8, will they authorize the New Iraq War? That's the question some anti-war groups are asking their representatives now home in their districts. Rep. Jim McGovern is demanding "a full debate and a vote whether to authorize the war," which has been escalating during the Congressional absence.
It is not a lack of sympathy with the historic and current circumstance of Iraq’s religious minorities—or of other persecuted peoples in that traumatized country—that leads some of the most humane and responsible members of Congress to say that President Obama must seek approval from the House and Senate before committing the United States military to a new Iraq mission.
PDA (Progressive Democrats of America) shares the horror of the world at the slaughter of hundreds of innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza. We condemn violence against civilians by all sides.
Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) strongly endorses the statement of our Advisory Board Member Congresswoman Barbara Lee who expressed grave concerns about the "violence and loss of life in Israel and Gaza." We agree with Rep. Lee that, "this horrific violence does nothing to enhance the security of Israelis or Palestinians," and we join her calling for a diplomatic solution to ensure lasting security." Rep. Lee once again is the voice of reason saying, "We need strong diplomatic intervention by the US and regional partners to help establish an immediate ceasefire that allows for the negotiations of a permanent and peaceful settlement."
Furthermore, we endorse our Advisory Board Member Congressman Keith Ellison's demand that Israel and Egypt end the Gaza blockade to achieve peace.
PDAers have, with the rest of the world, reacted with outrage and heartbreak to the violence in Israel and Gaza. Board members like Medea Benjamin have worked for decades to bring attention to that area of the world, to its crying need for peace with justice. PDA was founded during the 2004 Democratic Convention in opposition to the Iraq War, which was being silenced by “official” party leaders. Our Inside/Outside strategy brought street heat to the suites, opening up our political process to the nonviolent call of Dr. Martin Luther King: turn from perpetual war to meeting human need. Nonviolence grounds all our policy advocacy: Healthcare Not Warfare; Windmills Not Weapons.
Washington DC – Today, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan McGovern-Jones-Lee resolution which requires the President to seek Congressional authorization before deploying armed services engaged in combat operations in Iraq.
The stunning military advance into cities in northern and central Iraq by an Al Qaeda offshoot, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria—backed by some of Iraq's Sunni tribal paramilitary forces and a militia tied to remnants of the deposed Baath party—compounds Iraq's long-running tragedy.
According to Ha'aretz correspondent Amira Hass, the [Israeli Defense Force] ] IDF has been conducting mass arrests in the West Bank, between 10 and 30 every day. Twenty-four of the arrested are members of the Palestinian parliament from Hamas' Change and Reform party. The number of those arrested since the kidnapping and murder of the Israeli teens has already exceeded 1,000. The Palestinians are convinced that most of those detained have nothing to do with the kidnapping and that these are mainly political arrests for purposes of intimidation and revenge.
PDA Advisory Board members Reps. John Conyers, Keith Ellison, and Barbara Lee joined 3 congressional colleagues--Reps. Jim Moran, Hank Johnson, and Alan Lowenthal--calling upon President Obama and Secretary Kerry to "redouble" their efforts to urge Israeli and Palestinian leaders to reach a cease-fire agreement. The full text of their letter is below, and a signed PDF can be found here.
80 Members of Congress Write to the President on Iraq
Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA13), Congressman Scott Rigell (R-VA02) and seventy other Members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama calling on him to seek Congressional approval before taking any military action in Iraq.
Please act now! We need your Congress member's signature on the Lee-Rigell Letter opposing a military attack on Iraq. Consult the list (see below). If your member of Congress is not there, call the Congressional switchboard ASAP (before Close of Business July, 2nd) and ask them to sign on to the Lee-Rigell Letter. Republicans may be willing to sign on, so it's worth trying them as well. The Switchboard number is 202-224-3121. Tell them to contact Rep. Barbara Lee's staffer Monica Pham at
At this writing, President Obama has neither the legal nor the political mandate to conduct airstrikes in Iraq or Syria.
On Thursday night, 182 Members of the House voted yes on Representative Barbara Lee's amendment defunding the use of the 2002 Iraq Authorization for the Use Military Force.
Members of Congress want to send a clear message to Obama: They won’t stand for another war.
After a recent string of insurgent attacks from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the northern part of Iraq, President Obama told Congress on Monday night that he will order 275 troops to the country to protect American personnel and the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
Residents of Mosul and Samarra, and a spokesman for a militant group, speak about their experience of the latest conflict
Why is Congress trying to allocate $601 billion to the military?
Next week, Congress will begin debate on a roughly$601 billion Pentagon budget for FY2015. Before we let this pass unchallenged, let's take a few minutes to put it in some historical perspective.
During the Bush years, people all over the world were horrified by America's aggression, human rights abuses and militarism. By 2008, only one in three people around the world approved of the job performance of U.S. leaders. The election of President Obama broadcast his message of hope and change far beyond U.S. shores, and Gallup's 2009 U.S.-Global Leadership Project (USGLP) recorded a sharp rise in global public approval of U.S. leadership to 49 percent.
U.S. efforts to overthrow foreign governments leave the world less peaceful, less just and less hopeful.
Soon after the 2004 U.S. coup to depose President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti, I heard Aristide's lawyer Ira Kurzban speaking in Miami. He began his talk with a riddle: "Why has there never been a coup in Washington D.C.?" The answer: "Because there is no U.S. Embassy in Washington D.C." This introduction was greeted with wild applause by a mostly Haitian-American audience who understood it only too well.
Or How the U.S. Military Avoided Budget Cuts, Lied About Doing So, Then Asked for Billions More
Washington is pushing the panic button, claiming austerity is hollowing out our armed forces and our national security is at risk. That was the message Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel delivered last week when he announced that the Army would shrink to levels not seen since before World War II.
Washington is pushing the panic button, claiming austerity is hollowing out our armed forces and our national security is at risk. That was the message Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel delivered last week when he announced that the Army would shrink to levels not seen since before World War II. Headlines about this crisis followed in papers like the New York Timesand members of Congress issued statements swearing that they would never allow our security to be held hostage to the budget-cutting process.
The U.S. is backing Ukraine's extreme right-wing Svoboda party and violent neo-Nazis whose armed uprising paved the way for a Western-backed coup. Events in the Ukraine are giving us another glimpse through the looking-glass of U.S. propaganda wars against fascism, drugs and terrorism. The ugly reality behind the mirror is that the U.S. government has a long and unbroken record of working with fascists, dictators, druglords and state sponsors of terrorism in every region of the world in its elusive but relentless quest for unchallenged global power.
America's military adventures have fueled a global explosion of terrorism and a historic breakdown of law and order.
Twelve years into America's "war on terror," it is time to admit that it has failed catastrophically, unleashing violence, war and instability in an "arc of terror" stretching from West Africa to the Himalayas and beyond.
The implementation of the Iran accord Monday signaled a modest but still important sea change in that country’s relationship with the world. As with all good diplomacy, the deal is a win-win for Iran and the United Nations Security Council’s permanent members.
MONTREUX, Switzerland (AP) — The United Nations is taking a day to see if there is enough common ground between Syrian President Bashar Assad's government and the opposition to talk directly for the first time since the rebellion began in 2011.
The talks in Syria began today, with the Syrian government and opposition exchanging accusations and invectives. Missing was the voice of nonviolent civilians, especially women, even through they have been trying for months to have a seat at the table.
At least ten states will be sites for testing drones — unmanned aircraft — in the next couple of years, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) announced on Monday. Six institutions have been authorized to operate test locations for the use of drones and for studying how they will interact with air traffic systems.
As we end the longest period of war in our history, we should be entering a period of postwar downsizing - but what about the communities dependent on the massive post-9/11 military budget?
End wars. Shrink the Pentagon budget. Reinvest the savings in neglected domestic priorities. It’s a logical progression. Right?
Washington, D.C.— Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) issued the following statement on the passing of former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela:
Iraq is still suffering from the US invasion because the apparatus of state oppression and terror is still in place, killing people every day. But few in the US seem to realize the scale of the war crimes committed in Iraq, an expert author told RT.
Having the most expensive and destructive military does not make the American people safer. The idea of U.S. "national security" seems inextricably entangled with the notion of "military supremacy."
All of a sudden we’re talking to Iran. Now, granted, that shouldn’t be such an astonishing bombshell. But given the reality of the last several decades, it pretty much is. And that’s all good. It’s been too long coming, it’s still too hesitant, there’s still too much hinting about military force behind it… but we’re talking. Foreign minister to foreign minister, Kerry to Zarif, it’s all a good sign.
A trillion dollars. It's a lot of money. In a year it could send 127 million college students to school, provide health insurance for 206 million people, or pay the salaries of seven million schoolteachers and seven million police officers.
MoveOn.org Petition - Congress Don't Renew Fast Track
Public Citizen Petition - Congress Must Reject Fast Track Authority
MoveOn.org Petition - Stop the Trans Pacific Partnership
CREDO Petition - Stop the Massive Corporate Power Grab
Enter your zip+4 and find your elected officials. This link provides name, address and phone number
There is no faster way to send a message to your Congress members than using our Email Advocacy Tool.