This year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ran one of the largest, most partisan, corporate-funded attack campaigns in its history. It worked closely with Karl Rove’s network of attack groups, while raising $75 million dollars to smear Democrats, including Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA), Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), and others. The Chamber’s ads were particularly sleasy; many were patently untrue, while others criticized Democrats for supporting legislation that the Chamber actually asked them to support.
Part of the Chamber’s strategy has been to manipulate the press and the wider public by falsely portraying itself as a community of small businesses and local chambers of commerce. Meanwhile, local chambers are upset that they are being unfairly associated with the U.S. Chamber’s far right partisanship. Politico reported today reported on the growing rift:
“We were getting pounded. We felt here, in Central Pennsylvania, that the ads they were running were not professional ads,” said David Wise, president of the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County, which is considering dropping its national membership. “This was not a unifying event. It was divisive.” […] Other chambers plan to take the extraordinary step of ending their affiliation with the U.S. Chamber, including The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. Its leaders reported being inundated with angry — and sometimes profanity-laced — telephone calls from people objecting to the U.S. Chamber-backed ads. […] Looking ahead to the 2012 elections, if more local chambers publicly declare their independence, it could undermine the power and credibility of attacks launched from the Washington office.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, during part of its history, was a practical business lobby interested in working with Democrats and Republicans alike to promote policies to boost both the interests of executives and to help ensure high employment. However, those days are long gone. Since the 70s, the Chamber has been a far right lobbying group, representing mostly multinational corporations like ExxonMobil and CitiGroup. Last year, nearly half of the U.S. Chamber’s entire budget came from large health insurance companies. As ThinkProgress reported, the Chamber also recently began a secretive effort to attract donors from foreign corporations, including the Bahrain Petroleum Company and the Bank of India.