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The Midmorning Refill: If Obama plans to reach out to Chamber of Commerce, he should watch his fingers

Today’s Flickr photo

Incoming freshmen of the U.S. House of Representatives
New members of the 112th Congress met on Capitol Hill Friday morning. Flickr photo by TalkMediaNews.

If you read one thing today . . .

Think Progress’ Lee Fang has a nice reminder of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s history of putting corporate interests over the public interest. President Obama, who is reported to be considering giving a speech at the Chamber, might want to be wary of burying the hatchet with this group.

The Chamber does not represent the entire American business community — not by a long shot. Although the Chamber has misrepresented itself and claimed to represent 3 million businesses (later modified to 300,000 after a Mother Jones exposé), in reality it actually represents a small group of multinational corporations. In 2008, half of its donations came from just 45 corporate donors. In 2009, nearly half of the Chamber’s money came from a single donation from the health insurance industry trade association. Moreover, the Chamber doesn’t appear to truly care about jobs or small businesses — evidenced by the fact that the Chamber killed legislation to create millions of new clean energy jobs and expand America’s competitive advantage in clean energy technology.

As ThinkProgress has noted, journalists often give undue credit to the Chamber as the “voice for business” simply because the Chamber is an old institution, they associate it with separate and distinct local Chambers that actually represent small businesses, and because the U.S. Chamber has one of the most sophisticated media outreach programs in Washington, D.C. But the Chamber does not deserve such respect, either from journalists or President Obama.


Journalists David Sirota and Matt Taibbi knocked back some drinks recently and wondered why none of Wall Street’s crooks never seem to get their comeuppance. Taibbi, who writes for Rolling Stone, was in Denver on tour for his new book “Griftopia,” which looks at how Wall Street greed drove the economy into the ground with virtually no consequences for the perpetrators. So, are the Wall Street grifters untouchable?

“They’re not afraid because other than Bernie Madoff, when was the last time someone on Wall Street faced any real punishment?” [Taibbi] responded. “Sure, a few go to jail once in a while, but they’re usually out in a few months and then on the speaking circuit. That’s not exactly a deterrent against bad behavior that’s making you millions.”