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New Information About U.S. Chamber of Commerce Funding Shows Support From Dark Money Groups, Ultra-Rich

Sept. 13, 2017

New Information About U.S. Chamber of Commerce Funding Shows Support From Dark Money Groups, Ultra-Rich

Data Explains Why Chamber Pushes Tax Code Changes for the Rich

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A detailed examination of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s funding sources helps explain why it is pushing for tax code changes to benefit the ultra-rich and big corporations, a new Public Citizen report (PDF) shows.

Public Citizen’s U.S. Chamber Watch project examined the voluntary public disclosures made by Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (S&P 500) companies regarding their political spending. Researchers also collected information about dark money groups that support the Chamber. The information represents the most comprehensive compilation yet of the corporations and other entities that fund the Chamber.

The disclosures showed that:

• 98 S&P 500 companies disclose Chamber membership and/or payments to the Chamber;
• 37 provide sufficiently detailed information to conclude that they do not fund the Chamber;
• 116 do not provide enough information to determine if they fund the Chamber;
• 249 do not disclose any information relating to trade association memberships;
• Somewhere between 120 and 350 S&P 500 companies are likely to have given $50,000 or more to the Chamber. This accounts for between 22 percent and 65 percent of the 539 donations of $50,000 or more the Chamber itemized on its 2014 tax returns.

There is, however, significant evidence that politically active nonprofits and the ultra-rich are also funding the Chamber:

• In 2014, the Karl Rove-linked Crossroads GPS contributed $5.25 million to the Chamber. This represents the third largest donation the Chamber received that year.
• In 2014, the Koch brothers-affiliated Freedom Partners contributed $2 million to the Chamber. This ties it as the 17th largest donor to the Chamber.
• In 2014, the Chamber received $1 million from the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, a nonprofit supporting U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) reelection bid.
• In 2016, media billionaire Stan Hubbard was quoted as saying he cut a “six figure” check to the Chamber as well as a “somewhat smaller” check to fund the Chamber’s efforts to preserve GOP control of the U.S. Senate.
• The Chamber also has staked out numerous policy positions whose primary beneficiaries are not companies, but are instead the ultra-wealthy. These include the Chamber’s opposition to incorporation transparency and the CEO pay ratio rule.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its affiliates reported almost $275 million in revenues in 2014. While what the Chamber does with these millions – lobby, buy campaign ads and litigate – is well known, where all this money comes from has long been a mystery.

A September 2016 Public Citizen report demonstrated that deep-pocketed entities provide the vast majority of Chamber funding. Today’s report shows that not all of these deep-pocketed entities are businesses.

“For decades, the Chamber has claimed to be the voice of small business, but the more we dig, the more we find that doesn’t appear to be the case,” said Dan Dudis, director of Public Citizen’s U.S. Chamber Watch project. “If the Chamber is accepting significant sums from non-business sources, how can it legitimately claim to be the voice for American business, small or otherwise?”

The Chamber has been one of the leading voices calling for massive tax cuts that would disproportionately benefit big corporations and the ultra-wealthy.

“While it is unsurprising that the Chamber would push for tax cuts for its Big Business members, the policies it is pushing would disproportionately benefit the one percent. Our new report provides an explanation as to why the Chamber is carrying the water of the oligarch class,” Dudis said.

Read the report (PDF).