I have long argued that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce does not represent the true interests of small businesses but instead only uses the name of small businesses to advance the interests of its big business members. I made this point again yesterday in Washington while on a panel talking about real small business positions on issues. The event was sponsored by Public Citizen’s Chamber Watch and was held primarily to brief Senate staff.
Now a report has been released finding that the U.S. Chamber might not even be representing the interests of its own Board of Directors.
This rather unusual survey was conducted by multiple U.S. Senators. These Senators were responding to newspaper reports that indicated that positions and strategic actions taken by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce might not actually reflect the interests of its members.
A survey letter was sent to the U.S. Chamber’s 108 Board members and focused on two issues: the Chambers foreign work in support of tobacco companies and its domestic actions to oppose government policies to address climate change.
You can read the details of the (unofficial) report here.
While the total response from the Board members was not overwhelming, what stands out is that of those who did respond not one supported the actions the U.S. Chamber has taken on the two issues in questions. Many didn’t even even know what actions the Chamber had taken. In fact, the respondents made it clear that their own companies had policies that were quite opposed to the policies and actions being taken by the Chamber.
According to one conclusion of the report:
Indeed, based on the responses of Chamber Board member companies, the Chamber seems to act at will, without broadly consulting its leading members about fundamental positions on which it spends millions of dollars in collected dues.
The president of the U.S. Chamber, Tom Donohue, has made it very clear in public interviews that his organization is for sale. If you are a cigarette company and you want to fight anti-smoking efforts in foreign countries without getting your hands dirty, pay the Chamber millions of dollars to do the work in the name of the business community. Likewise if you are an oil or coal company and you want to protect your carbon-polluting energy policies but need another business organization to publicly fight your battles in Congress and the courts, just pour millions into the Chamber’s pocket and get the job done.
The U.S. Chamber’s Board not only doesn’t need to vote on the issue, it apparently doesn’t even need to be informed.