The U.S. Chamber of Commerce hits $1 billion lobbying milestone

Ever wonder why our political system seems to be dominated by corporate interests?

An excellent report just out from the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) helps shed light on that very question.

Through some impressive tracking work, CRP showed that one of the biggest mouthpieces for Big Business – the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – has become the first organization to spend a total of $1 billion on lobbying since CRP started keeping track in 1998.

In comparison, the report showed the next highest spender during that time was General Electric, at just shy of $294 million.

Although this year so far has been slow for the U.S. Chamber (in terms of reported dollars spent on lobbying), the group’s spending has increased greatly since current President Tom Donohue took over the organization in 1997.

The year after Donohue started leading the U.S. Chamber, the group spent just $17 million. By 2010, that number had risen to $157 million.

The U.S. Chamber’s Agenda

The organization now reportedly staffs 88 in-house lobbyists in addition to others hired through outside firms. In 2012 alone, 183 individuals from 33 different lobbying groups represented the U.S. Chamber, according to the report.

So that leaves one to wonder…

What exactly is the U.S. Chamber using this money to fight for?

The U.S. Chamber has a broad agenda that includes supporting outdated energy policies like the Keystone XL pipeline and attempting to forestall implementation of the important financial regulations we need to enact to protect our economy from another financial crisis.

A Growing Difference of Opinion

Although it claims to “protect free enterprise,” the policy stances of the U.S. Chamber have been losing it the support of some in the business community.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the construction firm Skanska left the U.S. Chamber because the company felt its interest in improved green building standards were not being represented..

In addition, several big name companies like Yahoo, Apple, and PG&E have all left the U.S. Chamber because the organization chose to support policies the companies felt were opposed to the firms’ business interests.

Others like Google, (although still currently members) have voiced similar concerns as well.

And these companies aren’t the only ones raising concerns.

Recently, U.S. Chamber Watch and our allies from the Corporate Reform Coalition gathered more than 300,000 consumer signatures on a citizen’s petition and got 26 investor groups to send letters asking Google to end its ties with the U.S. Chamber.

We hope the leaders at Google listen.

By spending such a huge sum of money on lobbying, the U.S. Chamber is effectively drowning out the voices of citizens – those who matter most if we are to have a healthy political system.

Jake Parent is the coordinator of Public Citizen’s U.S. Chamber Watch. To learn more about Chamber Watch, follow @uschamberwatch on Twitter and sign up for email updates