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Feb. 6, 2014

Majority of Donations to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Given by Just 64 Entities

2012 Tax Forms Reveal Donation Amounts

WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than half of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s contributions in 2012 came from just 64 donors, according to a new report released today by Public Citizen’s U.S. Chamber Watch program.

The report, “The Gilded Chamber: Despite Claims of Representing Millions of Businesses, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Gets Most of Its Money From Just 64 Donors,” analyzes the 1,619 contributions listed by the Chamber and its affiliate working against consumer access to courts, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), on their 2012 Form 990 tax returns. Just a tiny fraction of their donors account for most of their contributions, Public Citizen found. 

Calculations for the report were based on Public Citizen’s analysis of itemized contributions of $5,000 or more, which nonprofits must report to the IRS and make available to the public upon request. (Groups may redact the names of the contributors, which the Chamber does.) The sum of contributions of $5,000 or more amounted to more than 94 percent of the Chamber’s total contributions for 2012.

The average reported contribution to the U.S. Chamber was $111,254, with the top 43 entities donating a combined $80.4 million.

“The U.S. Chamber is one of the largest conduits of dark money in the country, but it refuses to disclose its donors,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, where U.S. Chamber Watch is housed. “The American people deserve to know more about who’s influencing this powerful force in our politics. By looking at the size of the Chamber’s and ILR’s donations, we can learn a little more about what kinds of businesses they represent – seemingly, very large ones.”

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce claims to represent the interests of more than 3 million businesses, but only about 1,500 donors provided nearly 95 percent of its contributions, and just 64 of those donors accounted for more than half of its contributions,” said Sam Jewler, communications officer at Public Citizen’s U.S. Chamber Watch program. “When there’s a policy conflict between the companies giving $1 million and the ones giving $20,000, who do you think wins?”

The ILR’s average donation was $454,110, with 21 donors combining to give $27.3 million, about two-thirds of its $43.6 million in contributions. While the U.S. Chamber’s revenue came disproportionately from a few dozen contributions of $500,000 and more, among hundreds of donations between $10,000 and $20,000, the ILR’s donations were almost entirely in the hundreds of thousands or millions. Seventy-one of the ILR’s 96 donations were for $100,000 or more, and more than half were for $250,000 or more.

Read the report.

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