Last week, ThinkProgress published an exclusive story about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s foreign fundraising operation. We noted the Chamber raises money from foreign-owned businesses for its 501(c)(6) entity, the same account that finances its unprecedented $75 million dollar partisan attack ad campaign. While the Chamber is notoriously secretive, the thrust of our story involved the disclosure of fundraising documents U.S. Chamber staffers had been distributing to solicit foreign (even state-owned) companies to donate directly to the Chamber’s 501(c)(6).
We documented three different ways the Chamber fundraises from foreign corporations: (1) An internal fundraising program called “Business Councils” used to solicit direct, largely foreign contributions to the Chamber, (2) Direct contributions from foreign multinationals like BP, Siemens, and Shell Oil, and (3) From the Chamber’s network of AmCham affiliates, which are foreign chambers of the Chamber composed of American and foreign companies. The Chamber quickly acknowledged that it receives direct, foreign money, but simply replied, “We are not obligated to discuss our internal procedures.” Instead of providing any documentation or proof to demonstrate foreign money is not being used for electioneering purposes, the Chamber launched an aggressive media strategy to first, attack ThinkProgress with petty name-calling and second, to confuse the media by highlighting the Chamber’s relatively minor AmCham fundraising, which the Chamber says (also without documentation) totals “approximately $100,000” from all 115 international AmCham chapters. The Chamber and the media largely ignored ThinkProgress’ revelation about the Chamber’s direct foreign fundraising to its 501(c)(6) used for attack ads.
Yesterday, the Chamber’s chief lobbyist Bruce Josten, who has been spoon-feeding much of the media distortions about our report, went on Fox News (whose parent company donated $1 million to the Chamber recently for its ad campaign) to again try to dilute the issue by dissembling about the Chamber’s fundraising and membership. “We have probably 60 or so foreign multi-national companies in our membership that we have had for decades, many of which have been in the United States for half a century or a century,” said Josten.
The Chamber is being deceptive. In addition to multinational members of the Chamber headquartered abroad (like BP, Shell Oil, and Siemens), a new ThinkProgress investigation has identified at least 84 other foreign companies that actively donate to the Chamber’s 501(c)(6). Below is a chart detailing the annual dues foreign corporations have indicated that they give directly to the Chamber (using information that is publicly available from the Business Council applications and the Chamber’s own websites):
CompanyLocationMoney/Level 4G Identity SolutionsHyderabad, India$7,500 A2Z Maintenance & Eng.Gurgaon, India $7,500 Amarchand MangaldasMumbai, India$15,000 Apollo HospitalsChennai, India$7,500 Arshiya InternationalMumbai, India$15,000 Astonfield ManagementMumbai, India$7,500 AXA GroupParis, France$7,500 Avantha GroupIndia$7,500 Avasarala TechnologiesBangalore, India$7,500 AZB & PartnersMumbai, India $15,000 Azure PowerNew Delhi, India$7,500 Bharat ForgePune, India$15,000 Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLPToronto, Canada$7,500 Brookfield Asset ManagementToronto, Canada$7,500 Cameco CorporationSaskatoon, Canada$7,500 Credit SuisseZürich, Switzerland$15,000 Devas MultimediaBangalore, India$15,000 DSK LegalBombay, India$7,500 Dua AssociatesHyderabad, India$15,000 Educomp Solutions LtdDelhi, India$7,500 Essar GroupMumbai, India$7,500 Fox Mandal LittleIndia$7,500 GMR Bangalore, India$15,000 Hindalco Group, TheMumbai, India$15,000 Hinduja Group, TheLondon, UK$15,000 Hindustan Construction CompanyMumbai, India$15,000 HSBCLondon, UK$15,000 ICICI BankMumbia, India$7,500 InfosysBangalore, India$15,000 Infotech EnterprisesHyderabad, India $7,500 International SOS AssistanceSingapore$7,500 Ireo ManagementGurgoan, India$15,000 ITC GroupKolkata, India$15,000 J. Sagar AssociatesMumbai, India$15,000 J.B.Boda InsuranceMumbai, India$7,500 J.M. Baxi & Co.Mumbai, India $15,000 Jagran PrakashanKanpur, India$7,500 Jindal PowerNew Delhi, India$15,000 Jubilant OrganosysNoida, India $7,500 Kimaya EnergyNew Delhi, India$15,000 Kotak MahindraMumbai, India$7,500 KPIT CumminsPune, India$7,500 KPMGAmstelveen, Netherlands$15,000 Lahmeyer InternationalFrankfurt, Germany$7,500 Larsen & ToubroMumbai, India$15,000 Leela HotelsBengaluru, India$7,500 Linklaters LLPLondon, UK$7,500 Luthra & LuthraNew Delhi, India$15,000 Macquarie CapitalSydney, Australia$15,000 Majmudar & CompanyMumbai, India$7,500 NIIT TechnologiesDelhi, India$15,000 Nishith Desai AssociatesMumbai, India$15,000 NovartisBasel, Switzerland$15,000 Oberoi GroupDehli,India$7,500 Patni AmericasMumbai, India$15,000 Punj LloydGurgaon, India$15,000 QuEST GlobalSingapore $7,500 Ranbaxy, Inc.Gurgaon, India$7,500 Reliance IndustriesMumbai, India$15,000 Reliance CommunicationsNavi Mumbai, India$7,500 RoltaMumbai, India$7,500 Sanofi-AventisParis, France$7,500 SKP Crossborder ConsultingMumbai, India$7,500 SNC LavalinMontreal, Canada$7,500 State Bank of IndiaMumbai, India$15,000 Sun Life FinancialToronto, Canada$7,500 Tata GroupMumbai, India$15,000 Tatva LegalIndia$15,000 Urenco InvestmentsSlough, UK$7,500 TrilegalIndia$7,500 Walchandnagar IndustriesMumbai, India$7,500 WelspunMumbai, India$7,500 WiproBangalore, India$15,000 TAIB Bank*Dubai$20,000 Aluminum Bahrain B.S.CKingdom of Bahrain$10,000 Bahrain Financial Harbour Holding CompanyKingdom of Bahrain$10,000 Gulf AirKingdom of Bahrain$10,000 Midal CablesKingdom of Bahrain$10,000 The Nass GroupKingdom of Bahrain$10,000 Bahrain Maritime & Mercantile InternationalKingdom of Bahrain$5,000 The Bahrain Petroleum CompanyKingdom of Bahrain$5,000 First Leasing BankKingdom of Bahrain$5,000 Gulf Petrochemical Industries CompanyKingdom of Bahrain$5,000 TOTAL $885,000
Again, all of these annual dues are collected in the same 501(c)(6) the Chamber is using to run partisan attack ads. The data above reflects information from public sources, and the Chamber likely has many more foreign corporations as dues-paying members — but refuses to divulge any of the funders for their ad campaign. Unfortunately, many reporters in the traditional press covered the Chamber story, but missed the entire point of our reporting. Most reporters (from the New York Times, McClatchy, the Associated Press, etc.) never contacted ThinkProgress, instead opting to only interview Chamber officials.
Here’s how the Chamber’s unusual foreign fundraising operation works. According to this internal Chamber staff chart obtained by ThinkProgress, the Chamber has an international division devoted to promoting free trade and related policy issues. U.S. Chamber staffers, based here in Washington, D.C. with offices in the Chamber’s building at 1615 H Street, create bilateral “Business Councils” fundraising programs to solicit money from foreign corporations in Korea, Egypt, Brazil, Bahrain, India, and other places. For instance, the Chamber’s US-Egypt Business Council directs potential members to wire their checks to the US Chamber of Commerce. The application also notes that checks should be marked “ATTN: Leila Vossoughi.” Vossaoughi is a regular staffer at the Chamber. Promotions to join the Chamber have included promises that foreign firms obtain “access to the US Chamber of Commerce and everything that it does” and pledges to help the foreign firms promote free trade policies in America. All of the staffers who manage the Business Councils work directly for the Chamber. These Business Councils are nothing like the Chamber’s AmChams, which are foreign affiliates of the Chamber composed of American and foreign businesses abroad. Business Councils are based in the Chamber and even hosted on the U.S. Chamber’s website domain. Bylaws from the US-Bahrain Business Council confirm that the money the U.S. Chamber raises from these applications — which welcome foreign-owned businesses — goes into the Chamber’s 501(c)(6). Click below to see one such application:
Again, the information above documents the fact that foreign donations go directly to the Chamber without any intermediary, for instance, through an “AmCham” or another Chamber affiliate organization. The same Chamber account funded by these foreign corporation is running a $75 million attack campaign. In fact, a Chamber spokesperson acknowledged the foreign funds go into the Chamber’s general account. Any responsible reporter should have to note these direct donations given to the Chamber, which the Chamber has refused to discuss. Or, reporters should contact us directly if there is any confusion about our report.
ThinkProgress intern Riley Waggaman contributed to this post.