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Celebrating In Secret: 100 Years Of The Chamber of Commerce

Joseph Hines

Other outside dark money groups get the press, but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gets results. That's because the Chamber, the biggest lobbying organization in the country, doesn't disclose its donors, among whom are the most powerful companies in the country. Those corporations use the Chamber's to anonymously funnell money into competitive races. In the beginning of October alone, they've spent almost $5 million dollars on political races. But that's not the source of their unmatched influence.

After the election is over, and the excitable billionaires lose interest, the Chamber goes to work crafting legislation, blocking progress. They have an annual revenue of $200 million, and spent almost $70 million dollars in 2011 lobbying. That makes them the best funded lobbyists in the country. For perspective, that's three times as much as their closest competitor, General Electric. Founded as a counterweight to the ascendant labor unions a century ago, today the Chamber of Commerce reigns supreme.

So what does the Chamber get for all their dough, and who benefits? We don't know, because the Chamber won't say. They don't have to. The Chamber, as a 501(c)(6) trade association, doesn't have to disclose its donors, as opposed to super PACs. The only way we know who's funding their work is through voluntary disclosures. Such disclosures include Dow Chemical, Prudential, and Coca-Cola

While it claims to speak on behalf of small business, the depth of its coffers and the trepidation of the Chamber of Commerce's donors suggest that it speaks for big, multinational corporations instead. The Chamber fights tax increases on the wealthy, health reform, and financial regulation. To restore their trust in government, the American people need to see who wields the power in Washington. 

Public Citizen, U.S. PIRG, and the Business Ethics Network celebrated the Chamber of Commerce's hundredth anniversary by calling on the group to disclose the donors behind its advertising. We agree. What's the most powerful political organization in the country so afraid of?