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Will the Tea Party demand the U.S. Chamber disclose its donors?

Tea Party protestersTea Party members who want to punish corporations for supporting the policies of President Obama or congressional Democrats should demand that their senators pass the DISCLOSE Act (S.3628).

That’s the conclusion I came to after reading Paul Bedard’s Washington Whispers column in today’s U.S. News & World Report.

Bedard’s piece offers some interesting speculation by Tea Party organizers about upcoming campaigns to punish corporations that supported “President Obama’s progressive agenda.”

But Bedard doesn’t mention that the eager Tea Partiers will have no way to know which corporations to target, since so many corporations secretly give money to Big Business’ lobbying heavyweight, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and let it do the dirty work.

But wait, aren’t the Tea Party and the U.S. Chamber comrades in arms against “Obama’s progressive agenda”?

Not necessarily. According to the Washington Whispers story, corporations supportive of the Bush/Obama economic stimulus plan of 2008 are at the top of the Tea Party’s hit list. And the U.S. Chamber lobbied heavily in favor of the stimulus. That would put the U.S. Chamber’s secret corporate funders squarely in the Tea Party’s crosshairs — if they could find out who those secret corporate funders really are.

The centerpiece of Bedard’s story is a new poll released today by FreedomWorks – a right wing, Koch-brother-affiliated, self-described “leading voice in the Tea Party movement.” Among the findings:

The poll […] found that 81 percent of conservative voters active in the Tea Party would be “less likely to buy products from companies that actively lobbied to pass Obama’s $787 billion stimulus plan,” and 61 percent would blog, Facebook, or upload a YouTube video urging backers to boycott their products.

Which corporations lobbied for the stimulus? The story names General Electric. But during the height of the economic crisis, the U.S. Chamber’s position on the stimulus was unambiguous:

“Make no mistake: When the aftermath of congressional inaction becomes clear, Americans will not tolerate those who stood by and let the calamity happen,” wrote Bruce Josten, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s vice president in September 2008, who at the time pressed lawmakers before their vote on a $700 billion bailout for Wall Street.

A few months later, Congress faced a similar reckoning — whether to pass an $814 billion economic stimulus package consisting of about one-third tax breaks and two-thirds additional government spending. Again, Josten wrote to lawmakers: “The global economy is in uncharted and dangerous waters and inaction from Washington is not an option.”

On which corporations behalf was Josten speaking when he urged Congress to pass the stimulus? Nobody knows, and that’s the problem. The Tea Party – and the rest of the American public – should be able to find out.

I invite Dick Armey and the rest of his friends at FreedomWorks to help us shine sunlight on the secret corporate political spending that’s distorting our politics in Washington. If groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are trying to influence our elected officials, we should know who is funding them and what their agenda really is.

Urge your Senators to pass the DISCLOSE Act today.

Flickr photo by Chuck “Caveman” Coker.