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September 18, 2016


Powell would have been pleased with the results of his 1971 memo. He would have been even more pleased at how the members of the Chamber numbering 3 million small businesses, 7,000 state and local chambers and 116 overseas chambers have been whipped into shape to assist in the takeover of the American political economy by the rich and corporate class, thanks to the new vision of the Chamber’s CEO, Thomas J. Donohue, which bears no resemblance to the Chamber’s “core mission.”

Donohue, approved by the Gingrich-DeLay-Armey unholy trio of right wing Republicans to the board of the U.S. Chamber, has performed well as just another lobbyist for the looming corporate and banking takeover of America, but he has totally sold out the Chamber’s founding statement that the Chamber, a formerly pragmatic and staid group, was instituted to be “in touch with business associations and chambers of commerce throughout the country.” Donohue and his ax-wielding cohorts have perverted such lofty ideals to the sordid business of buying the country’s economy and its politics.

There is no democracy these days within this network of members; Donohue is running the show and spending the hundreds of millions of dollars of Chamber dues and political contributions (in addition to millions more from corporate sponsors who do not want their names known) to sponsor right wing legislation and elect right wing Republicans. He is spending the local lumberyards’ and morticians’ money at the beck and call of national politicians, not the more than 7,000 chamber members.

Local people who are members of local chambers serve as a good guy front for Donohue’s enormous gifts to those who (if they haven’t already) are set to completely take over America and subvert our democracy in the process, although there is a new glimmer of hope. As we shall see, some local Chamber chapters and a few large corporations have resigned from the U.S. Chamber due to its one-sided tactics (which I hope is the beginning of a groundswell of resignations from this Koch-like machine to finance political and economic takeover by the few). The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has morphed into the U.S. Chamber of Horrors.

So what is the evidence to support what I have complained about above since the appointment of Donohue as CEO of the U.S. Chamber? Talk’s cheap, as the old saying goes. Just exactly what is it he supporting at the national level that proves he is not for either most members of the Chamber or the rest of us? Following (and bear with me) is a partial list of initiatives he supports with the hundreds of millions that he and the national Chamber are lavishing on right wing politicians via the national Chamber’s 151 registered lobbyists, 87 of whom are in-house, armed with $124 million in cash spent in the 2014 election, for instance, more than the next four organizations combined for that election cycle.

He is challenging health care reform, suing the SEC to stifle the regulation of financial markets, lobbying Congress to reduce punitive damages in product liability litigation, attempting to gut the Foreign Corrupt Practices and False Claims Acts, undermining carbon pollution standards, questioning the causes of climate change, opposing a federal minimum wage, defending high-salt processed foods, attacking “net metering of solar energy panels, interfering in the election of state supreme court justices, shilling for American tobacco sold overseas, opposing environmental legislation, fighting paid maternity leave, persuading American businesses to fight campaign-finance disclosure, opposing net neutrality, defending high pharmaceutical prices, and laundering large “anonymous” donations from the Koch Brothers’ Freedom Partners and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads Super PAC.

To reiterate, this is only a partial list of the initiatives he has taken under the banner of the Chamber to protect such a few troubled industries and products, notably tobacco, banking, health insurance, pharmaceuticals, coal, firearms, petroleum and other fossil fuels, and if he is successful in all or even most of what he has set out to do, then in my opinion not only our democracy will be a thing of the past, but America itself will be a thing of the past, a mere ATM for the new royalty, the rich and corporate class and the rest of us mere serfs in the castle of money.

How does he do it? Most of the money Donohue hands out to Republican politicians is from carefully laundered donations from donors seeking the political cover a restructured chamber offers them. Donohue himself said in such connection that “I want to give them all the deniability they need.” He has a sign on his desk that reads “Show me the money.” When trolling for cash from donors, he tells them that “people seem to listen to you more when you’ve got a bagful of cash.”

So have we finally arrived at the brink of where recent Supreme Court decisions have led us, i.e., to the purchase of the politics and the economy of America not by pragmatic reasoning and a vision of where we are heading, but by “bagfuls of cash?” Money versus the blood of patriots? Is that our fate?

Not yet. There are faint glimmers of a counter-revolution among Chamber members who know they have been captured by the rich and corporate class and that their “core mission” has been sacrificed and perverted by libertarian renegades such as Donohue with his “take no prisoners” brand of capitalism and to the devil with America, its people and its future, all as demonstrated by his promise to spend $100 million of Chamber money and donations to elect chosen Republican candidates in 2016.

Evidence of the counter-revolution? In 2015, the Council of State Chambers of Commerce commissioned Republican consultant Frank Luntz’s firm to poll 1,000 local, state and national senior corporate executives who are current or prospective chamber members. The survey revealed that chamber members nationwide overwhelmingly support progressive social and business policies that the U.S. Chamber is fighting! As an example, 80 percent favor raising their state’s minimum wage, 73 percent support paid sick days; 72 percent support increased maternity leave time; and 82 percent support paternity-leave time. Several local chambers have left the national organization, and Apple, Pacific Gas and Electric, Mohawk Paper and several other corporations have followed suit, citing the national Chamber’s pro-fossil fuels as the reason for leaving. CVS, with its 7,800 drug stores, has left the national Chamber as well, citing the Chamber’s overseas promotion for another hazardous product, tobacco.

Senate staffers conducted their own investigation of the CEOs of the 108 corporations who have executive representatives on the U.S. Board of Directors and found that about half of such corporate board members have anti-tobacco and/or pro-climate change positions, and that not one of their CEOs explicitly supported the Chamber’s actions on tobacco or climate change. It appears that the consummate fixer Donohue has a house divided on his hands, which is not surprising since it was the nation’s business and political leaders who brought him to Washington, not small town and local business people. What was done can be undone. He should “spend more time with his family.”

I expect the exodus from the Chamber’s membership to accelerate as its members realize they have been duped and used in the interests of positions that are not theirs, and that’s the good news. It’s not over yet, but it can be soon if we do not vote these Donohue-appointed people out of the Congress, so my message is – VOTE!   GERALD       E



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