Last week, Congress passed restrictive class action legislation which will attempt to silence the American public while protecting corporations from being held accountable for injury, wrongdoings and error. While it may not have come with a big pretty bow, the legislation definitely was a gift for the Chamber of Commerce and its Institute for Legal Reform. The group definitely got what it paid for. According to the Political Money Line tracking service, the Chamber of Commerce spared no expense last year, spending over $53 million in lobbying expenses in 2004. That’s more than any other group in that 12-month period. (Do the math: That comes out to nearly a hundred thousand dollars for every member of the House and Senate plus the president.) This should come as no surprise: The group has aggressively pushed this industry-friendly legislation. The Chamber of Commerce last year, remember, entered the administration’s upside-down world of spin-as-journalism, launching the Madison County Record, a weekly newspaper in Illinois which billed itself as the county’s legal journal. In reality, it was a propaganda powerhouse, a slick piece of advertising disguised as a newspaper that the Chamber used as “a weapon in its multimillion-dollar campaign against lawyers” who file “frivolous lawsuits.”
Look for the Chamber of Commerce to only get stronger and more powerful on the Hill. The group is already planning to spend about $40 million of its budget to lobby Congress in 2005. And that’s just a drop in the bucket of the funds it has available to spend on influence: last year, this “staunchly” conservative group collected $90 million from America’s largest corporations.