Today, the New York Times builds on research published by ThinkProgress by noting that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is mostly funded by a small group of large corporations. The Chamber has tried to lie about its identity for years, absurdly telling the media that it represents 3 million businesses. Then after being caught with no proof of such membership, it modified that number to 300,000 — but then claimed small businesses were the true driver of the Chamber’s member rolls. But the Times correctly points out that in 2008, the Chamber received the bulk of its donations from only 45 companies, including firms like Goldman Sachs, Edward Jones, Alpha Technologies, Chevron Texaco and Aegon.
Many corporations pay regular dues to the Chamber, but pitch in more during election cycles or particular lobbying campaigns. For instance, on top of its regular $100,000 commitment of yearly dues, health insurance giant Aetna joined other health insurers to funnel $20 million to the Chamber to kill health reform. Similarly, Fox News parent company News Corporation gave an additional $1 million to the Chamber for its attack campaign this midterm election. While ThinkProgress forced the Chamber to acknowledge that it receives foreign funds to its 501(c)(6) account used for attack ads, the Chamber refuses to disclose any of its other donors or how exactly it funds its nasty attack ads. Using public corporate records, ThinkProgress has found more dues-paying members of the Chamber. The numbers below reflect a bare minimum, and in many cases these corporations have paid ten times the amount of their regular dues to the Chamber in the past two years:
— Procter and Gamble paid the Chamber $3.2 million in 2009.
— Drug company Merck paid the Chamber $234,000 in 2008, and still counts itself as a dues-paying member of the Chamber.
— Utility company Dominion Resources gave the Chamber $100,000 in 2009.
— On the Chamber’s Egypt Business Council website, Apache Corporation, British American Tobacco, The Blackstone Group, The Boeing Company, Cargill USA, CitiGroup, The Coca-Cola Company, ExxonMobil, Google, Microsoft Corporation, PepsiCo, Intel Corporation, Monsanto Company, Pfizer Inc, Philip Morris International combined committed an additional $375,000 to the Chamber for 2009–2010.
Earlier this year, U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue admitted to ThinkProgress that CitiGroup, a bailed out financial conglomerate that still has not paid back taxpayer TARP funds, is a dues-paying member of the Chamber. Many bailed out banks are in fact dues-paying members of the Chamber. A Huffington Post crowd-sourced study of the Chamber found that there are dozens of other large corporations that have indicated membership in the Chamber, but have refused to confess their level of involvement. The Chamber has shilled for BP, and Donohue said after BP’s spill that taxpayers should pay for the clean up. Indeed, BP admitted membership, but has not disclosed how much they pay to the Chamber.
As a ThinkProgress investigation found, at least 80 foreign businesses have been paying the Chamber at least $885,000 in yearly dues for the last two years. The money went directly to the Chamber’s 501(c)(6), the same account the Chamber is now using to run a $75 million attack campaign against Democrats. As we have shown, many of the foreign corporations have a direct stake in American public policy; for instance the Chamber has been the most vigorous lobbying operation in DC to promote outsourcing of American jobs. Of course, many other corporation join the Chamber to benefit from its right-wing corporate lobbying campaign, like keeping corporate tax loopholes open (Chamber members CitiGroup, ExxonMobil and Bank of America already paid no corporate income taxes last year) and maintaining the status quo on energy policy so the fossil fuel industry can emit carbon pollution free of charge.