Local Connecticut Chamber Weighing Whether To Break With ‘U.S.’ Chamber

The Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce in southern Connecticut is currently in discussions about whether to break from the ‘U.S.’ Chamber over disagreements about the national Chamber’s involvement in politics.

Chamber Executive Director Tricia Cunningham said her organization, which currently pays dues to the national Chamber, has disagreements over the U.S. Chamber’s use of millions of corporate dollars this election season to lobby and advertise on national issues:

“At a recent board meeting,” Cunningham said, “we did have a conversation about the U.S. Chamber after learning of their recent political advertisements, and we are evaluating our relationship with the organization. We do not necessarily condone or support the views of the U.S. Chamber.”

That lack of transparency can be confusing, said Cunningham. “Because we are a small local chamber, sometimes people assume our views would be the same” as the national chamber, when they’re not, she said, adding, “But we’re happy to clarify that.”

Tony Sheridan, president and chief executive officer of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, said his organization broke off its relationship with the U.S. Chamber last year. Sheridan said plainly, “My issue with the national chamber is their willingness to take a very narrow slice of a piece of complicated legislation – and it’s generally the most negative spin they’re taking, like health care, when we all know that the health-care system is broken – and claim that the sky is falling, instead of using the money to educate people.”

Since ThinkProgress first reported on the Chamber’s receipt of foreign funds (which go into the same general account that funds the Chamber’s right-wing partisan attack ads), a number of local chambers have publicly broken from the national organization.

Last week, the Greater Hudson Chamber of Commerce in New Hampshire announced it is leaving the U.S. Chamber because it does not want to be associated with the national Chamber’s political ads in favor of Republican candidates. And in Virginia, the local Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce has refused to endorse the political attack ads that the national Chamber is running in its area to defeat Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA).

Conservative defenders of the Chamber like to intentionally conflate the local chambers with the national Chamber, hoping the popularity of the independent locally-run Chambers will disguise the national Chamber’s right-wing activities. The U.S. Chamber also attempts to present itself as an organization the represents mom and pop local businesses. In reality, as the New York Times noted this week, it is funded mostly by a small number of large multi-national corporations.