United States Chamber of Commerce
|Key people||Tom J. Donohue, President|
|Area served||United States industry|
|Method(s)||Media attention, direct-appeal campaigns
|Motto||Fighting for your business|
The Chamber is staffed with policy specialists, lobbyists and lawyers. Politically, the Chamber is generally considered to be a conservative organization. It usually supports Republican political candidates, though it has occasionally supported conservative Democrats. The Chamber is one of the largest lobbying groups in the U.S., spending more money than any other lobbying organization on a yearly basis.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's own history of itself describes it as originating from an April 22, 1912, meeting of delegates. The Chamber was created by President Taft as a counterbalance to the labor movement of the time.
The Chamber generally tries to maintain amicable relationships with both the Republican and Democratic parties. For instance, the Chamber supported both Ronald Reagan's tax cuts and Bill Clinton's NAFTA efforts. In 1993, the Chamber lost several members over its support for Clinton's healthcare reform efforts. The Chamber had chosen to support healthcare reform at that time due to the spiraling healthcare costs experienced by its members. However, House Republicans retaliated by urging boycotts of the organization. The Chamber operated its own cable television station, Biz-Net until 1997 in order to promote its policies. The Chamber shifted somewhat more to the right when Tom Donohue became head of the organization in 1997. By the time health care reform became a major issue again in 2010-2012, the organization opposed such efforts.
More than 90 years later, the Chamber claims a direct membership of 300,000 businesses, and 3 million through its various affiliates such as state and local chambers. Some of the Chamber's members and donors are Goldman Sachs, Chevron, Texaco, and Aegon.
The US Chamber is different from local and state chambers of commerce located in many cities, towns and states nationwide. The US Chamber focuses on national issues on the federal government level. Local and state chambers of commerce are independently started and operated organizations. Local chambers focus on local issues, and state chambers on state issues.
In late 2011 it was revealed that the Chamber's computer system was breached from November 2009 to May 2010 by Chinese hackers. The purpose of the breach appeared to be gain information related to the Chamber's lobbying regarding Asian trade policy.
Since a 1971 internal memo by Lewis Powell advocating a more active role in cases before United States Supreme Court, the Chamber has found increasing success in litigation. Under the Burger and Rehnquist Courts the Chamber was on the prevailing side 43% and 56% of the time, respectively, but under the Roberts Court, the Chamber's success rate rose to 68% as of 21 June 2012.
- Opposed to using the government shutdown and debt ceiling limit as negotiating tactics 
- Supported the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
- Support for business globalization, free trade, and offshoring.
- Qualified opposition to financial regulation.
- Opposes the DISCLOSE Act, which aims to limit foreign influence on U.S. elections.
- Opposed the Affordable Health Care for America Act., but the Chamber views health care reform as necessary, preferably with market-based solutions.
- Opposes action on climate change. The Chamber recognizes that climate change is real, but disputes the scientific consensus that warming mostly results from human activity and questions whether anything can be done to reduce climate change. The Chamber emphasizes the economic impact of climate decisions.
- Supported the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
- Supported the Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act of 2013 
- Supported the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act of 2013 (H.R. 2279; 113th Congress)
- Supported the Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act (H.R. 6; 113th Congress)
- Supported the North American Energy Infrastructure Act (H.R. 3301; 113th Congress)
- Argued against mandatory immigration status checks by employers in Arizona including in a Supreme Court case.
- Supported corporate personhood, allowing corporations to spend unlimited sums on electioneering, via an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United v FEC. Its position is opposed by some advocates for independent businesses.
The Chamber has emerged as the largest lobbying organization in America. The Chamber's lobbying expenditures in 2013 were almost twice as high as the next highest spender: National Assn of Realtors, at $38.5 million.
|Year||US Cham. Rank||US Cham. Spending||Next Highest Spender||Next Highest Amount|
|2013||1||$74,470,000||National Assn of Realtors||$38,584,580|
|2012||1||$136,300,000||National Assn of Realtors||$41,464,580|
|2007||1||$53,082,500||Pharmaceutical Rsrch & Mfrs of America||$22,733,400|
|2004||1||$53,380,000||American Medical Assn||$18,820,000|
As of October 2010, the Chamber had a worldwide network of 115 American Chamber of Commerce affiliates located in 108 countries. The US Chamber says that a "relative handful" of the Chamber's 300,000 members are "non-U.S.-based (foreign) companies." It adds that, "No foreign money is used to fund political activities." A US Chamber executive has said that the organization has had "foreign multinationals" (foreign companies) as members for "over a century, many for decades." The US Chamber states that it receives approximately $100,000 annually in membership dues from its foreign affiliates.
AmCham China, with members comprise more than 2,600 individuals from over 1,200 companies, is said to be the largest affiliate outside of United States.
In the 2008 election cycle, aggressive ads paid for by the USCC attacked a number of Democratic congressional candidates (such as Minnesota's DFL Senate candidate Al Franken) and supported a number of Republican candidates including John Sununu, Gordon Smith, Roger Wicker, Saxby Chambliss and Elizabeth Dole.
During the 2010 campaign cycle, the Chamber spent $32 million, 93 percent of which was to help Republican candidates. The Chamber's spending out of its general funds was criticized as illegal under campaign finance laws. In a front-page article titled "Large Donations Aid U.S. Chamber in Election Drive", The New York Times reported that the Chamber used contributions in campaigns without separating foreign and domestic contributions, which if true would appear to contravene prohibitions on lobbying by foreign nations and groups. In question was the Chamber's international branches, "AmChams", whose funds are unaccounted for and perhaps mix into the general collection. All branches, corporations, and members of the Chamber pay dues; the question is how they divide the money for expenses in national campaigns.
The truth of these allegations is unknown, as neither the Chamber nor its detractors can provide any concrete evidence to support or refute the allegations. In reference to the matter, Tom Donohue wrote his council and members on October 12, 2010. He stated, "Let me be clear. The Chamber does not use any foreign money to fund voter education activities—period. We have strict financial controls in place to ensure this. The funds we receive from American Chambers of Commerce abroad, bilateral business councils, and non-U.S. based global companies represent a small fraction of our more than $200 million annual revenues. Under our accounting system, these revenues are never used to support any political activities. We are in full compliance with all laws and regulations." Organizations Moveon.org, Think Progress, and People for the American Way rallied against the Chamber at the Justice Department to start an injunction for a criminal investigation. As yet, the Justice Department has not taken any inquiries as a serious legal threat. The Chamber is not required to produce records of its coffers or fundraising.
President Barack Obama and other legislators asked the IRS and Federal Elections Commission to ensure that the foreign funds that the Chamber receives are not used for political activities. Obama criticized the Chamber for not disclosing its contributors. The Chamber has responded that "No foreign money is used to fund political activities."  After the election, the Chamber reiterated the nature of Obama's policy dictated action from the Chamber, however the conflict would not be made "personal".
In addition to the expenditures from the Chamber's own funds, in 2010 its political action committee gave $29,000 (89 percent) to Republican candidates and $3,500 (11 percent) to Democratic candidates. The Chamber's PAC received a total of 76 donations from individual donors ($200 or more donation) totaling $79,852 in 2007-2008, or an average of $1050 per donation, and three donations per month.
During the 2012 election cycle, the Chamber ranked 8th in outside spending[not in citation given] out of all registered independent expenditure groups. Despite more than $33 million spent supporting candidates in Congressional races, Chamber-backed candidates lost 36 out of the 50 elections in which the Chamber participated.
In late 2013 the Chamber announced it would distribute campaign contributions in "10s" of Republican primary elections to oppose the Tea Party movement and create a "more governable Republican party." In early 2014 Tom Donohue clarified that the push would be to elect "pro-business" members of Congress "who favor trade, energy development and immigration reform".
In April 2009, the Chamber began an ad campaign against the proposed Employee Free Choice Act. Critics such as the National Association of Manufacturers have contended that additional use of card check elections will lead to overt coercion on the part of union organizers. Opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act also claim, referring to perceived lack of access to a secret ballot, that the measure would not protect employee privacy. For this reason the Chamber argued the act would reduce workers' rights.
It has been reported that the Chamber has falsely inflated its stated number of members, claiming 3 million versus actual membership of 300,000. The Chamber says this is a "misunderstanding of the U.S. Chamber's structure", as the membership of the US Chamber of Commerce is 300,000, but the membership of all of its regional affiliates combined is 3 million.
In November 2009, the Chamber was reported to be seeking to spend $50,000 to hire a "respected economist" to produce a study that could be used to portray health-care legislation as a job killer and threat to the nation's economy.
In December 2009, activist group Velvet Revolution, under the name StopTheChamber, posted a $200,000 reward for "information leading to the arrest and conviction of Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donahue".
Some in the business community have criticized the Chamber's approach to public issues as overly aggressive. Hilary Rosen, former CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America added, "Their aggressive ways are out of step with a new generation of business leadership who are looking for more cooperative relationship with Washington." In 2010 the U.S. Chamber created a page on their web site to respond to controversies that arise.
The climate campaign organisation 350.org estimates that 94% of US Chamber of Commerce electoral contributions went to candidates denying the scientific consensus on climate change.
The Chamber threatened to sue the Environmental Protection Agency in order to have what the Chamber termed "the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century" on climate science before any federal climate regulation is passed in October 2009. In response to this position, several companies quit the Chamber, including Exelon Corp, PG&E Corp, PNM Resources, and Apple Inc. Nike, Inc has decided to resign from their board of directors position but to continue their membership. Nike stated that they believe they can better influence the policy by being part of the conversation. Peter Darbee, CEO of former chamber member PG&E (a natural gas and electric utility company in California), said, "We find it dismaying that the Chamber neglects the indisputable fact that a decisive majority of experts have said the data on global warming are compelling... In our view, an intellectually honest argument over the best policy response to the challenges of climate change is one thing; disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort the reality of these challenges are quite another." In response to an online campaign of Prius owners organized by Moveon.org, Toyota has stated that it is not leaving the Chamber. The Aspen Chamber Resort Association of Aspen, Colorado left the U.S. Chamber because of its views on climate change, in light of how climate change could hurt Aspen's economy, which relies heavily on the ski industry.
They have also come under attack by the Tea Party and others for their support of Amnesty.
- Americans for Transportation Mobility
- Business Civic Leadership Center
- Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness
- Center for International Private Enterprise
- Essential Worker Immigration Coalition
- Institute for 21st Century Energy
- Institute for a Competitive Workforce
- Institute for Legal Reform
- National Chamber Foundation
- National Chamber Litigation Center
- Advocacy group
- American Green Chamber of Commerce
- Global Intellectual Property Center
- Lobbying in the United States
- National Federation of Independent Business
- U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce
- United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
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- Opensecrets.org ranking page for 2013
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- About AmCham China
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- Who's holding us back? Full report Greenpeace November 23, 2011
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- Official website
- Real Clear Politics Portal
- Guide to Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America. Publications. 5332. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Martin P. Catherwood Library, Cornell University.
- Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America. Communications Development Division. Videotape collection, 1988-1992. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.