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Oct. 19, 2012

New Report: Here’s What Nearly 30 Corporations Gave the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Last Year

Chamber Spends Big on Elections, but Lack of Disclosure Requirements Hinders Ability to Trace Money to Source

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Corporations that disclosed their donations to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gave the association $3.5 million in non-tax-deductible contributions, which can be used for political spending, a new Chamber Watch report shows.

However, given the extremely limited disclosure of such giving, it’s just a tiny slice of what the Chamber is receiving. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce already has injected tens of millions of dollars into the upcoming election – and it plans to continue to ramp up spending as the election nears. Reports indicate that the Chamber plans to spend $100 million in total.

In 2011, corporations that disclosed their contributions to the Chamber gave a total of approximately between $10.1 million and $11.4 million, according to the report, “U.S. Chamber of Commerce Pumps Millions into Elections.” Chamber Watch is a project of Public Citizen. The report lists money given by nearly 30 corporations, ranging from Yum! Brands and Monsanto to eBay and Intel.

Public Citizen joined U.S. PIRG, the Business Ethics Network, small business representatives and others at a rally in front of the Chamber today. The groups gathered for a press conference in Lafayette Square, between the White House and Chamber headquarters, then delivered more than 30,000 petitions to the Chamber calling on it to shed light on the funders behind the millions of dollars worth of political ads the Chamber has purchased throughout the country. (More information about the event is available here. See photos from the event here.)

The massive flow of money from the Chamber is a direct result of the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed corporations to make unlimited donations to organizations like the Chamber, which then direct the money to campaign expenditures. With no disclosure requirements in place for such contributions, most of these contributions remain almost impossible to trace.

The Chamber has been adamant in its opposition to disclosure requirements.  However, thanks to pressure from advocacy groups, some corporations are voluntarily disclosing information about their political spending, including contributions to trade groups like the Chamber.
“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the primary funnel for the flood of secret corporate cash in the 2012 elections,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “The giant corporations that aim to buy our elections don’t want the public to know who’s doing the buying. The voluntary disclosures from large companies of their contributions to the Chamber total only a tiny fraction of what the Chamber says it will spend in 2012.”

 There are several ways to ensure more disclosure:

• Congress should pass the DISCLOSE Act, which would require electioneering organizations to disclose their major contributors;
• The Securities and Exchange Commission should require publicly traded corporations to disclose campaign-related expenditures to shareholders; and
• The president should issue an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their political spending, including corporate funds laundered through third party groups like the Chamber.
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