In a profile piece on U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donohue, the Washington Monthly’s James Verini reveals that, despite spending hundreds of millions on right-wing pro-business lobbying campaigns, attack ads, and executive bonuses for its top lobbyists, the Chamber has continually struggled to finance its own operations, and even posted a net asset loss of over $29 million according to its 2008 IRS filings. Verini notes that the Chamber has alleviated part of its financial problem by earning “extra income” through renting its roof to Fox News for the network’s White House news coverage.
Under Donohue’s leadership, the Chamber has forged a tight relationship with the Republican Party, even adopting a de facto “Waterloo” strategy to kill key proposals of President Obama’s agenda to thwart the momentum of progressive reforms overall. But by quietly bringing Fox News into his business strategy, Donohue and the executives at Fox News are blurring the lines between media and lobbying. While it is unclear exactly how long Fox News has been a business partner to the Chamber, Fox News has aggressively defended the Chamber during the Obama presidency:
MORT KONDRAKE: “Now, they’re attacking what they think are, you know, demons — the insurance companies are unpopular, FOX News is right-wing, allegedly, and now the Chamber of Commerce is a big bad big business lobby, but who is next? They look for any enemy everywhere.” [Fox News, 10/20/09]
BILL O’REILLY: “I didn’t even know this. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, pro-business organization, obviously, Chamber of Commerce wants commerce. And they say, look, the cap and trade stuff is going to lose jobs. You know, higher taxes on business is going to be crazy. Health care, way too expensive. We don’t need government run health care. Private industry can do it better. So the Obama administration says okay, we’re going to get these guys?” [Fox News, 10/21/09]
ANDREW NAPOLITANO: “Let’s see. The Chamber of Commerce represents enough businesses to employ, correct me if I’m wrong, about 115 million Americans, well more than half the workforce. Question: Why were you guys not invited to the White House today?” [12/3/09]
NEIL CAVUTO: “All right, well, better, but still bad, and American business leader still worried that this health-care thing could be the death of them. Now first on FOX, reaction of the guy whose group represents, get this, 3 million American businesses. Tom Donohue is the CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and he joins me right now from the roof of his fine building in Washington, overlooks that thing called the White House.” [9/17/09]
In the last quote, Fox News’ Neil Cavuto introduced Donohue (a frequent guest of his show) by falsely declaring that the Chamber represents 3 million businesses. In reality, about 300,000 businesses have some level of membership to the Chamber.
The main purpose of the Chamber is to launder money from large industries and multinational corporations to affect public policy. For instance, large health insurance companies secretly funneled tens of millions into the Chamber for an aggressive effort to kill health reform in 2009. Big banks and financial services firms — including companies bailed out by taxpayers in 2008 — have quietly funded a campaign through the Chamber to try to block key Wall Street reforms. In a sense, the Chamber already wields an inordinate amount of political power through its stealth lobbying campaigns. By shilling for the Chamber — and refusing to disclose its business partnership — Fox News yet again unethically amplifying the voice of multinational corporations.