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Exactly who does the Chamber represent? Not me. Not you

Hear that thud? That’s the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s new advertising campaign hitting the brick wall of skepticism. Steven Pearlstein in the WaPo isn’t buying it:

The Campaign for Free Enterprise, of course, is not really about creating 20 million jobs over the next decade — if Chamber members could double their profits while creating not a single new job, that would suit them just fine. Rather, it’s nothing more than a desperate attempt to repackage the same old anti-tax, anti-regulation, anti-government rhetoric in hopes of derailing the major initiatives of the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress.

Economist Simon Johnson at the Baseline Scenario says the Chamber has it backwards:

Somewhere, the Chamber’s senior leadership missed the plot. What brought on the greatest financial crisis since the 1930s? What has hurt, directly and indirectly, small business of all kinds to an unprecedented degree over the past 12 months? What is killing small and medium-sized banks at a rate not seen in nearly 80 years?

It’s the behavior of the financial sector, particularly big banks and their close allies – by consistently mistreating consumers. And the letter and spirit of the regulatory regime let them get away with it.

How bad of a week has it been for the Chamber? Almost overnight their membership dropped from 3 million to a rather paltry 300,000. Those weren’t real defections but rather the work of Mother Jones uncovering that the Chamber had been seriously inflating its numbers.

A day after Mother Jones exposed the US Chamber of Commerce’s inflated membership number, the Chamber quietly backed off the figure in its public statements. At a Washington press conference Wednesday morning unveiling the Chamber’s Campaign for Free Enterprise, Chamber officials repeatedly cited a membership of 300,000. That’s a tenth as many members as the Chamber claimed a day earlier, when a press release for the Washington event said the Chamber represented “more than 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region.”