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
Washington, D.C.— Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee released the following statement regarding the President’s inclusion of chained CPI in his 2014 budget proposal. The chained CPI is a cost index which helps to calculate the cost of living adjustments for benefit levels.
Washington, D.C.— Today, on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War, Congresswoman Barbara Lee delivered the following statement on the House floor:
Washington, D.C.— During a day-long mark up of the Ryan bill, as a member of the Budget Committee, Congresswoman Lee offered an amendment to eliminate the Overseas and Contingency Operations (OCO) account in order to provide transparency and accountability to war spending and to bring it back into the base Pentagon budget.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) is leading a small group of House Democrats in calling on President Barack Obama to release information regarding the Administration’s use of drone strikes.
Washington, D.C.— Today, Congresswoman Lee released the following statement regarding the FY2013 Continuing Resolution, Defense and Military Construction/VA Appropriations Bills:
“As a member of both the Appropriations and Budget Committee, I rise in strong opposition to this Continuing Resolution.
This week, all eyes are on Congress. Sequester is looming, and these indiscriminate cuts would not only hurt the poor first, but hurt them the most. Nearly 50 million of our neighbors — almost 16 million of them children — live in poverty; in the richest nation in the world, this is deplorable, unconscionable, but above all, solvable.
Washington, D.C.— In reaction to the passage of a bi-partisan reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, Congresswoman Barbara Lee issued the following statement:
Washington, D.C.— Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee joined Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer to launch the new Democratic Whip’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity.
Washington, D.C.— Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) highlighted a new report by the House Committee on Appropriations detailing the impact of the sequester, the broad, across the board cuts that would go into effect on March 1st if Congress does not act.
Washington, D.C.—Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced H.R. 808, the “Department of Peacebuilding Act of 2013” to create a cabinet-level Secretary and Department of Peacebuilding. The term “peacebuilding” refers both to activities that target the root causes of violence as well as the broad measures used to prevent violent conflict and create sustainable peace.
Washington, D.C.—Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee released the following statement in reaction to President Obama’s State of the Union Address to Congress:
Re "Obama agrees to release files on drone strike," Feb. 7
The recently leaked Justice Department memo that outlined the overly broad and vague legal boundaries used to justify drone strikes should shake the American people to the core.
Washington, D.C. — Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) issued the following statement in response to the United States Postal Service announcement that they plan on ending Saturday delivery:
Washington, D.C.—Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced the “Audit the Pentagon Act of 2013” for increased transparency and accountability in the defense budget.
Washington, D.C.—Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee joined fellow members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus at a press conference marking the introduction of The Balancing Act, a bill to repeal the sequester and achieve balance in long-term deficit reduction between revenue and cuts.
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) issued the following statement regarding immigration reform:
Washington, DC – Today Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) released a statement recognizing the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.
“As we recognize the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we must remain vigilant in protecting a woman's right to access safe and legal reproductive and preventative health services.
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) issued the following statement in response to the President’s Plan to Protect our Children and our Communities by reducing Gun Violence.
As Afghan President Hamid Karzai returns to the United States this week, he will meet President Barack Obama at a time when the overwhelming majority of the American people and a strong bipartisan coalition of Congress believe it is long past time to bring the war to a safe and expedited close.
Introduces Key Legislation to Fight Poverty, Restore Equity and Promote Global Peace & National Security
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee reiterated her commitment to fighting poverty and creating opportunity, restoring income equity and promoting global peace and national security as she introduced a number of bills at the start of the 113th Congress.
After last night's Republican Plan "B" debacle and failure to find agreement within their own Caucus left them with no pathway forward, it is now time for all parties to unite around a new plan, a Plan "D" on the deficit deal.
Oakland, CA – Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) provided the following statement concerning decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the issue of marriage equality.
Many of us in the Congressional Progressive Caucus recognize that no serious plan to address the deficit can go forward without defense spending reforms on the table. The bloated Pentagon budget has increased a staggering 95 percent dating back to 2000. We continue to spend billions upon billions of dollars on a nuclear arsenal and Cold War-era weapons system designed to fight a phantom Soviet army.
Bi-partisan letter to Obama: No military solution in Afghanistan, bring troops home
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC) were joined by over 90 Members of the House of Representatives in sending a bipartisan letter to President Obama, calling for an accelerated end to the war in Afghanistan.
Oakland, CA – Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) issued the following statement regarding the 2012 election results: "I want to thank the people of the 13th Congressional District for their resounding support in re-electing me to the United States Congress. It is such a tremendous honor to serve the most vibrant, forward-thinking and diverse constituency in the country.
Oakland, CA – Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) issued the following statement on the Presidential Debate:
Oakland, CA – Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) issued the following statement on the passing of Senator George McGovern:
"Today our country has lost one of its most committed advocates for the world's most the most vulnerable populations.
Oakland, CA – Barbara Lee issued the following statement on the Presidential Debate:
Oakland, CA – Barbara Lee issued the following statement on the Vice Presidential Debate:
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) issued the following response to the killing of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three Embassy staff:
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-09) issued the following statement on the eleventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001:
“Today, we as a nation commemorate the eleventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. This anniversary is yet again a sobering moment for our country and a reminder that we must always remember those who perished in this appalling act of violence.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) released the following statement today after the Supreme Court ruled the Affordable Care Act constitutional:
I urge you to vote yes on three amendments made in order last night to H.R. 4310, the FY13 Defense Authorization Bill.These amendments will safely and responsibly bring our troops home from Afghanistan, keep Pentagon spending within the limits of the Budget Control Act, and ensure a meaningful diplomatic option with Iran is on the table.
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Barbara Lee has been named co-chair of the Congressional Sudan Caucus in the House of Representatives. Lee has been a long-standing leader within the Caucus, focusing her efforts on bringing the world’s attention to the genocide in Darfur.
“The tragedy surrounding the senseless shooting death of unarmed, 17 year-old Trayvon Martin has pricked the conscience of our nation.
Washington, DC - Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) released the following statement today in reaction to the budget plan introduced by Chairman Paul Ryan and Republicans that would threaten Medicare and Medicaid and hurt our nation’s most vulnerable communities:
Lee Calls on Congress and the President to Invest in Job Creation, Decrease Wasteful Defense Spending
“Today the Pentagon previewed a plan to reduce military spending by $6 billion in the 2013 budget request. I am optimistic that current efforts to address runaway defense spending are headed in the right direction.
Washington, D.C.– Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) issued the following statement in response to the President’s State of the Union address:
Who doesn’t like a good comeback story?
That’s a question voters will answer come November in some of the most competitive House races in the country. For Democrats, who need to net 25 seats to seize back the majority, a handful of pickup opportunities rest with former members trying to win their old jobs back.
One of my opponents has a new ad, claiming that I will shut down all children's lemonade stands.
He says that I won't be acting alone, of course. I will do it in concert with my "progressive cronies" - the actual term in the ad. Presumably in return for corporate PAC contributions from Big Lemon.
Alan Grayson was a terrific Congressman during the term he spent in Congress. As a freshman member of the House of Representatives, he changed the national debate on health care, and made it stick. The Republicans have hated him for it ever since. They spent millions against him, to get him out of Congress in 2010. But now he's back.
Mitt Romney's plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program would enable him to pay for a massive tax cut for the rich, which former Rep. Alan Grayson described as Romney's "shell game" on PoliticsNation.
Alan Grayson was on national TV with Rev. Al Sharpton discussing Republican healthcare plans for seniors and the uninsured. Their old plan was “don’t get sick”; their new plans are far worse. This is what Alan said:
With early ballots in the mail, and only three weeks from the August 28th primary, State Senator David Schapira has emerged as the Democratic standard-bearer in a closely watched and increasingly nasty three-way congressional race in Arizona that many observers see as a litmus test for national Democratic chances to pick up critical seats in Congress.
“The primary in Congressional District 9 has pitted three of the brightest members of the Democratic Party in Arizona against each other. All three candidates are leaders in our state and I am honored to call them friends.
Endorsements are a funny thing. Most of them aren't worth anything at all. I have two friends running in the Democratic primary in Arizona's brand new 9th CD, Kyrsten Sinema and Andrei Cherny. Kyrsten is a progressive and Andrei is somewhere in his own world ideologically. But the third guy... well, he's the one who's been endorsed by Raúl-- and by PDA. Whomever wins the August 28th primary is, likelier than not, headed to Congress. That third guy is David Schapira, the Senate Democratic Leader.
On the May Inside the Party call, David Schapira (AZ-9) received the PDA National endorsement. Currently David Schapira is the Arizona State Senate Democratic Leader.
The Arizona Communications Workers of America (CWA) State Council announced today their endorsement of Senate Democratic Leader David Schapira, D-Tempe, in the race for Arizona’s Ninth Congressional District. The state council is comprised of the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association (AZCPOA), the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA and multiple CWA local affiliates.
Congressman Raúl Grijalva, AZ-07, today announced his endorsement of Arizona Senate Democratic Leader David Schapira, D-Tempe, in his campaign for Arizona’s Ninth Congressional District. “Voters are looking for candidates who stand up for what they believe in and can win, not by hiding their values, but by sharing them with voters. David is that candidate,” said Rep. Grijalva.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer pushes the country's most anti-union agenda yet. David Shapira, Democratic leader of the Arizona state senate, slams his Republican colleagues. Welcome back to "The Ed Show." Jan Brewer and the Arizona Republicans are on a tear. they are on the offensive. they are on a mission to completely destroy public employee unions. have you heard the story before?
As predicted, former state Senator Kyrsten Sinema's not the only Democrat with her eye on Arizona's new Congressional seat -- this morning, state Senate Minority Leader David Schapira announced that he, too, will run in Arizona's newly formed 9th Congressional district.